We went to Catania in order to go to the railway station. None of the guidebooks had prepared us for how astonishing the historic centre is – grand, extensive, blackened with age and the use of lava stone, full of dilapidated churches, long axial streets and well preserved squares (the Cadogan Guide describes it as ‘a blackening lava-paved inferno of trash, crime and despair’). The presiding genius is not Gaglieri, but Giovan Battista Vaccarini, who was born in Palermo, trained in Rome under Carlo Fontana and settled in Catania in 1730 where he was responsible for much of the best architecture and town planning.
We began and ended at the Cathedral by Vaccarini:-
The Piazza del Duomo is extraordinarily impressive with its blackened façades and pilasters constructed out of deeply incised lozenges:-
The Cathedral is dedicated to S. Agata. So is the adjacent Chiesa della Badia di Sant’ Agata, also by Vaccarini:-
Then we walked up to the Collegiata, a church whose façade is by Vaccarini’s son-in-law, Stefano Ittar:-
Good houses and details abound in a city where there has been so little restoration:-
We had lunch by the Palazzo Platania in the Piazza S. Francesco d’Assisi:-
More churches in the Via Crociferi after lunch. S. Benedetto and S Francesco Borgia are next to one another:-
S. Benedetto had good chandeliers and a wonderful nuns’ gallery:-
From the interior of S. Francesco Borgia, one can look into the courtyard of the Collegio Gesuitico:-
Immediately opposite is S. Giuliano by Vaccarini with playful metalwork angels on the gates:-
We walked up the Via Gesuiti towards the dome of S. Niccolò l’Arena:-
Were distracted by the shoe factory:-
And by a church I can’t identify:-
We were en route to the old Benedictine monastery of S. Niccolò l’Arena. It was worth it:-
The church itself is also huge, begun in 1687 before the earthquake and left unfinished in 1798:-
Opposite is the Piazza Dante:-
If you’re feeling exhausted, so was I. We recuperated with freshly squeezed orange juice on the Via Clementi next door to a good piece of 1920s classicism:-
And I’ll end with a glimpse of Etna puffing not so far away:-
9 thoughts on “Catania”
the photography of the architectural detail is totally astonishing and illuminating….marvellous journeying into sicilian baroque how you can keep all saints in mind…..much enjoyed in windy rainy London
Dear Marina, Glad you liked it, as did we. Back to London today. Charles
Seeing Sicily trough your eyes has been a revelation. Thank you.
My in laws are from Western Sicily and, like the Cadogan Guide had told us Catania was a place to avoid. ‘Full of theives’. We made an illicit visit last year and loved it. High on our list was the food – a vast choice of gelanto, arancini and fresh fish.
Yes, it’s maybe how people in Edinburgh used to think of Glasgow. I hope we can make it to the fishmarket today. Charles
These posts have been lovely. Hoping that you make a return Sicilian trip one December to see and photograph the terracotta nativity scenes which I remember seeing in a travel supplement many years ago. A quick online search shows them to hail from Caltagirone.
Loverly pix…. In my intro to the third edition of the Blue Guide Sicily (1988) on the history of British and American Travellers there (subsequently dropped as being too specialized but revised in Evolution of the Grand Tour) i concluded, that in contrast to Taormina and Cefalu: ‘Today, Sicily’s great cities, Palermo, Messina and Catania, could still absorb a much expanded tourist industry with little ill-effect and considerable gains, both social and economic.’
The one guide book I didn’t have. Charles