Torrential rain, lightening and strong winds buffeted us for 24 hours before we finally stepped ashore to explore Catania which sits at the foot of Mount Etna, an active volcano that is currently venting steam into the air. As a visitor we're thrilled to see such a sight but no doubt the locals feel slight apprehension with the constant threat of erruption above them.
Catania has had its fair share of disasters when Etna erupted in 1669 engulfing the city in lava, then a major earthquake in 1693 devastated the whole of south-eastern Sicily. It's now a major port and transport hub and a city with magnificent buildings built from black lava rock and creamy white limestone. Needless to say it's not the most colourful of cities but it certainly has some grand buildings despite numerous articles, forums and blogs suggesting that you should give this city a miss.
The main sights are centered around the Piazza del Duomo one of Sicily's most elegant Baroque piazzas, an open space with a lava rock elephant central fountain supporting an Egyptian obelisk on its back.
Piazza del Duomo with sculpted elephant central fountain
The fish market was easy to find as we could smell it before hearing the welly-clad vendors shout across slabs, polystyrene trays and buckets full of bloodied fish and swordfish steaks cut to order. Sandals weren't the best choice of footwear as we made our way through pools of water and partially melted ice on the floor.
The side alleys off the market were dense with fruit, vegetables, dried herbs, pulses and spices. The aromas were wonderful, added to by vendors roasting aubergines, peppers and artichokes. If that little lot didn't make us feel hungry then the street food certainly got out attention on more than one occasion.
After a visit to the market it didn't take too long before we came across a sunken roman theatre, the Bellini gardens and Bellini theatre.... there's certainly plenty of attractions to easily occupy a weeks stay.
sunken black volcanic remains of a Roman ampitheatre
Initially we had some reservations about staying at Circolo Nautico NIC because the pilot book suggested that it was more exposed than the other marinas, particularly with a forecast of 40 knot winds coming from the west. The winds were less than predicted and overall we found it comfortable with hardly any surge. Facilities were basic but clean. €47 a night inc. electric, water and rubbish.
Circolo Nautico NIC with Mount Etna nearby