CATANIA, at the foot of Mt. Etna. Founded by the Greeks in 729 B.C., Catania became a Roman colony in 263 and was an important centre during the reign of the Normans, Swabians and Bourbons. We shall start our tour through the town from the Piazza del Duomo with the fanciful Elephant Fountain in the middle.
Facing on to the square are the suggestive Palazzo del Municipio and the Baroque facade of the Cathedral by Vaccarini, the architect who reconstructed the most important buildings of Catania after the earthquake in 1693. The three original Apses of this once powerful medieval edifice (1169) can still be seen. Inside, rich works of art, medieval and Renaissance sculptures, and the Tomb of Vincenzo Bellini. Following Via Colombo and Via del Plebiscite, we come to the impressive Castello Ursino, a masterpiece of Swabian military architecture, which houses the Museo Civico, with a rich collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, and the Picture Gallery.
Taking Via del Castello Ursino past Corso Garibaldi and Via Vittorio Emanuele, we turn to the right and enter the charming Via dei Crociferi, lined with delightful 18° century facades and balconies, Nearby, to the left, is the Greek Theatre and next to it the small Odeon. We then go along Via Einea, a stupendous straight street which has Mt. Etna as background. In Piazza Stesicoro we see the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre and, further on, the lovely Bellini Gardens. Still keeping to the left, we walk to the huge 18° century church and convent of S. Nicolo all'Arena a monumental Baroque complex, dominated by the lofty dome of the church. We then descend to the Baroque Porta Garibaldi.