Touchdown in Catania, my First look at Sicily

March 3, 2020

As suggested by a large number of my followers, Sicily became my first travel adventure of 2020. This travel was full of firsts. It began with Ryanair, an airline I had never used before. Ryanair allows only one carry on with its crazy low pricing. I chose to take a second one, a reserved seat and early boarding. I flew from Pisa to Catania for 51 Euros each way (That’s $56 American each way.) I took a short train ride to Pisa and caught the PisaMover for a 5-minute ride to the airport.

Another first for me, at least since I was a bit younger, I decided to go with the flow daily—no scheduled plan for this trip. I also stayed in a B&B that I chose strictly by location. And I arrived alone, da sola, after dark. 

There is a bus service from the airport to the center of Catania. I splurged on a taxi which cost 28.50 Euros. The driver mumbled in Sicilian mostly. I could not understand him. And then he dropped me off over a block from my B&B, The Tre Stelle, on Piazza del Duomo, the heart of the city.

It was dark. I was late. I needed to find the B&B Tre Stelle. No one was at the B&B. And frankly, I was nervous. The street looked rougher than I had anticipated. A neighbor in a quick stop shop next to the B&B offered to assist me. He said he knew the people who owned the B&B. He even gave me a free bottle of water. He called them and texted until he got a response and the woman came to let me in. 

Once I got settled into my room, I relaxed and thought about what I would do the following day. I knew I was on a hunt for the best cannolo I could find in Sicily. My friend, Judy Witts Francini, suggested I go to Prestipino for my breakfast treat and coffee. I met Tom, my new friend from the UK, and off we went for a sweet breakfast. Take a look at the offerings at Prestipino and at my cannolo.

It was delicioso!  Tom chose from another window.

What would you choose?

Now, fortified for a day of walking, touring, exploring, we headed toward the famous fish market of Catania.

We walked past the Fontana dell’Amenano to descend into the fish market.  What a cacophony of sound and a bit of scent hit me while I was still on the stairs. The market was filled with men hawking their wares. We saw fish of every kind.

I saw so many sea edible creatures, freshly caught.

The fishermen were exciting to watch and to talk with. I also met a very well-dressed shopper and asked if I could take his photo. I told him his look reminded me of my father. He smiled and said yes.

What rugged and elegant men!

Next, we chose to walk around the Piazza del Duomo which the elephant centers. The elephant is Roman and is carrying an Egyptian obelisk. The elephant is Catania’s symbol. For me, the combination of Roman and Egyptian structures encapsulates what I see here. These people are a blend from many lands, just as is its elephant centerpiece.

That’s me in the bottom photo. It was nice to have a friend take a photo instead of a selfie by me. 

After the excitement of the square, we passed through La Porta Uzeda and discovered a small park where the locals gather. It was filled with shadows, old local men and older statues with a fountain at the center.

This little hideaway from tourists was a godsend. After resting, people watching and chatting, we wandered along a different street to Piazza Mazzini. Here we found a fresh juice maker selling his drinks outside of an angled portico. These were created from the devastation of the earthquake at the end of the 17th century. The pillars were reclaimed for the church that had originally stood in this location.

From here, we walked to La Chiesa di San Francesco.

It is a Sicilian Baroque masterpiece. 

With its side wings and center hall of arched ceilings, it is stunning.

On a side hallway I discovered this painting commemorating San Massimiliano Kolbe who died in the camps during WWII. I found this very moving. 

After greeting Mother Mary and Baby Jesus, we left this church to explore side streets.

It is always fun for me to search out the side streets walked by the locals. Here in Catania, however, I stayed closer to the piazza while wandering.  It must have been laundry day.

Someone was washing a very big sheet.

I don’t know what it is about hanging laundry that fascinates me. Maybe it is just so human.

We also found a food market and more.

The smoky Carciofi looked so tasty. The fruit and veggies were mouthwatering.

As we found our way back to Piazza del Duomo, it was time to explore the Cathedral of Sant’Agata.

Sant’Agata is the patron saint of the city.

The Church has a blue hue in the shade of the day. 

The bas relief door is phenomenal. This church is built upon old foundations and much was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693.  Originally there were Roman Baths here. Then, it was a Norman styled church until after the earthquake.  

Inside you will find the sunken pillar bases of the old Norman church.

And a shrine to Bellini, the famous musician, writer.

Part one above and part two below.

The angel is exquisite.

The interior complete with huge arches over the center aisle carries all eyes to the altar.

See the incredible side door below.

It is amazing what the artisans could accomplish centuries ago.

Tom and I also visited Castello Orsino, the civic museum of Sicily.

This medieval castle from the 1200s houses a plethora of art and offered a Caravaggio exhibit at this time. 

The tall, golden beauty is a replica in miniature of what is carried during the Festival for Sant’Agata.

The painting above is my favorite of the day, partially for the artistic talent and partly for what is portrayed in this piece. What a fun subject.

I spent two nights in Catania. I was accompanied by Tom for some of my wanderings. In the evening I was on my own. 

There is so much to see in Sicily. I think one or two nights is the maximum you would need in Catania. 

After Catania, there was more exploration. For now, we must say Arrivaderci’, Catania.

More of Sicily to come next week! For now,

A dopo!

Ciao for now!

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