How to define Catania? A city of a thousand faces, a thousand flavours, a thousands treasures. A city of the sea and of a volcano, port on the Ionian sea, and capital of Etna. A city of tradesmen, countryfolk and fishermen who have always lived in symbiosis with the water, the fire, the sea and the mountains. A city of a thousand hearts of a multiethnic culture, multicultural, multi-religious, home of Bellini, of Sicilian Baroque, and of street food. From the sea to the mountains, the endless fields of orange groves and vineyards of the Etna coast, the black cliffs of volcanic rock and the long stretches of white sand, the Roman ruins and the Baroque churches, the festival of Saint Agata, and the city centre markets, all this is Catania.
You probably already know the Baroque, the churches, the palaces, the streets, the balconies and the traditions that give life to the city centre. Instead, choose one of the many alternative experiences of Catania, unearthed by sicilying.com, the portal to the best experiences in Sicily. Here we have three suggestions for you.
Suggestion one:take a walk down the streets of the city centre with your nose in the air, to explore the city by the scents that invade it.
The food and culinary traditions found here are a treasure trove of many cultural influences: Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans, Normans and Arabs, Spanish and French, have all left their mark. Peasant cooking and aristocratic cuisine, rich and poor ingredients blend together to create authentic and intense flavours. Sophisticated restaurants are complemented by genuine traditional taverns, and alleyways are brought to life by the most extraordinary street food.
Catania is the home of "street" food. Entrusting yourselves to the best of specialized tour operators, you will be able to combine a Catania tour with the discovery of the best food and wine that the city can offer. You can visit the Sicilian Baroque in Piazza Duomo or Via Crociferi, cross the famous fish market ("la pescheria") and taste the "sangeli" (pig's blood) or "zuzzu" (meat jelly). In Piazza Stesicoro, with the Roman amphitheatre, you can stop in a traditional bar to sample the street foodpar excellence: the “arancino”, the “cartocciata”, the “cipollina”, and all the sweet and savory varieties of "walking" food. Or let yourself be guided by local chefs through the traditional markets of the centre, to then be put to work in preparing Sicilian cuisine yourself.
Suggestion two:immerse yourself in the green countryside of Catania, in search of the roots of the most famous Sicilian wines. Many wineries of Catania trace their origins back to the 1700s: their vineyards are located on lava rock 700 metres above sea level and are cultivated according to methods handed down from generation to generation. The typical micro-climate and the favourable characteristics of the volcanic soil allow the cultivation of a high quality grape.
Beyond the vineyards and you will find old “bagli” (isolated old buildings in the Sicilian countryside), Fourteenth Century monasteries, now “agriturismi” farm homestays. The wine tasting in a cellar on Mount Etna is a wonderful experience, giving you the chance to savour "on the land" some of the most famous products of this region - Nero d'Avola, Inzolia, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Etna DOC red and white – all washed down with typical cuisine tastings.
Suggestion three:after having eaten and tasted some wine, it's time to get out of the city and climb in mountain bike the “muntagna”, Mount Etna! Mount Etna, the mountain of fire, with a summit of 3,300 metres above sea level, the highest active volcano in Europe.
With its lunar landscapes at high altitude, and woods along the coast, the trails and unique landscapes, the typical products and the historical centres of the little towns, Etna is in every season a fascinating visit, for travellers and nature lovers, for lovers of food and wine, for lovers of outdoor sports in unique surroundings.
The lava flows have greatly influenced the land, making it extremely varied, rocks, lush vegetation and landscapes, are always in continuous change as the substrate moves over time, as temperatures, precipitation and exposure also vary at these altitudes.
Making an Etna tour by bike along the stunning trails (the “Pista Altomontana”) led by an expert guide, or try an Etna bike tourdescending from the volcano to the sea, either way it'll be an extraordinary experience that you will remember for years to come.
Would you rather see Sicily from a completely unique point of view, unusual and absolutely breathtaking? Then book a mongolfiera tour in an hot air balloon! The flight will give you the chance to live a totally extraordinary experience, giving you an unforgettable view of the whole of Sicily; on landing a glass of fine Etna wine will be waiting for you, along with some special typical local products, and you will be awarded a “flight baptism certificate” signed by the pilot.
Come on, don't just settle for the usual stay: Catania is a city to enjoy to the full!
Catania's Street Markets
La Fiera and La Pescheria are two outdoor daily markets that give life to the streets of Catania and have become one of the city’s major tourist attractions as they are a meeting point between indigenous people and curious foreigners who enjoy watching these markets environment.
La Fiera expands along the city center, being la piazza de Stesicoro its nerve center where the market branches on different streets of the city. From early in the morning you can walk through this market and let the smells and colors of the fruits and vegetables wrap you in. La Fiera is always full of people picking through the wide range of things you can find at this huge market.
La Pescheria is the other central market located next to la piazza del Duomo, an incredible fish market buzzing with its merchants from 5 am until noon. La Pescheria offers a huge variety of incredibly fresh fish and seafood and also offers the opportunity to try in situ some of the products such as clams, mussels, oysters and sea urchins.
After walking through these markets, you better enjoy the wide variety of dishes provided by the restaurants in Catania.
Picture by Berthold Werner
Text by Fran Arnaiz.
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Yummy ice cream from Catania!
One of the experiences you can not miss if you visit Catania is to enjoy an authentic 'gelato' while you stroll through its streets and its monuments. Although the ice cream in Italy is an institution, the Sicilians are the most famous and it is one of the pillars of their food culture.
Its making has its own characteristics, with traditional recipes that have been passed from generation to generation, to obtain a softertextureand extraordinaryice cream flavors. Its traditional character is one of its greatest assetsand traditionalice creamandice-cream makers still use the same methods they have always used.
You'll notice thatthe ice creamis served inthe classic scoop, not with the device for forming balls to which we have become used. Try the Ernesto ones, in Via Ruggero di Lauria91-93,at the Pasticceria Quaranta, in Piazza Mancini Battaglia, or Pasticceria Gelateria Santo Musumeci on the Piazza SantaMaria, 9-10.
The ice cream is integrated in one of the most typical products of Catania, the 'broscia' or brioche. It is filled with countlessice cream flavors like pistachio, chocolate, caramel, lemon, strawberries, walnuts, hazelnuts, blackberry, tangerine or almonds.
Although granita is a typical Sicilian ice cream, it has little to do with the traditional Italian ice creams; it is similar toa slush but more creamy and refreshing, and is made with natural fruit. Idea lto start the day, especially in summer, being the typical Catanese breakfast.
The different flavors come from the rich products elaborated from the volcanic soil of Etna, mineral products that produce excellent lemons and oranges, tangerines, almonds, strawberries, cherries, hazelnuts and chestnuts. From these ingredients the maximum quality is respected without add in gscentsor preservatives.
But how do you recognizethe perfect granita? One ofthe featuresto look outis that their colorsare soft, which indicates that carries no dyes.For example, almond should be all white, and pistachio, will be more an off greenish, not garish green.
You also have to keep in mind that good granita should be consumed within a few hoursafter its preparation. Whenyou try it, make sure that the icehas not crystallizedor form spuddles.
You'll find the best ones in many places around Etnea street, but the ones from the Pasticceria Savia clearly stand out, one of the most prestigious pastry of Catania, located in Via Etnea 300. Or in the new Prestipino restaurant, located in Via Etnea 30-32, in the beautiful setting between Piazza Duomo and Piazza University.
Also in Etoile D'or from Via Beato Cardinale Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet, 7, the Chocolate Cafe in Viale Ruggero di Lauria, 129, where you can taste their successful versions made of almonds and pistachios in the seafront. As in Café de Paris, in Viale Ruggero di Lauria, 25, one of the favorite places of the inhabitants of Catania.
One of the most centric and busy is the historical Cafe Europa in Italia, 302. A meeting place to try the essentials of Catanese cuisine. Here, in particular the most requested is their strawberry version.
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Catania: Flavor, Fire, Light and Water
The province of Catania offers to travelers a wide range of landscapes, passing by small bays and bucolic trails, from Etna, the highest volcano in Europe, to the waters of the Ionian coast. And, as in landscapes, gastronomy of Catania is formed by great diversity of traditional recipes where converge Mediterranean tastes and textures.
Herbs, spices and products make a journey of flavors on the palate. From oriental spices like cinnamon and saffron - that flavored so many dishes-, to the sweet and sour or citrus contrasts.
The Etna volcanic soil is rich in minerals which, alongside with its characteristic climate, allows the cultivation of excellent fruits like lemons and oranges, tangerines, apples, olives, almonds, strawberries, cherries, hazelnuts, chestnuts and the production of quality wines worldwide recognized.
One of the great products of this dark and fertile land is the Bronte pistachio, the "green gold of Sicily", which is used for making ice cream, sauces and in many recipes.
Perfect to discover the land's products, nothing better than to visit its historic markets, the Fescheria and the Piazza Carlo Alberto Markets, who from early hours swarm at a frantic pace.
In Fescheria, located in Duomo Square, the visitor can try some of the products in site , such as clams, mussels, sardines, anchovies, oysters, sea urchins or mauru, an algae of the area which is eaten raw and dressed with a few drops of lemon.
To start the day, especially in summer, you should try the typical Catanese breakfast with lemon granita, almond, strawberry or chocolate, accompanied by a brioche called Tuppu. The granita is a Sicilian icecream that has little to do with the typical Italian icecream; it is similar to the typical granita but more creamy and refreshing, and is made with natural fruit.
Pasta alla Norma
The most traditional dish is "Pasta alla Norma", which is normally prepared with macaroni or spaghetti, tomato sauce, crispy fried eggplant, fresh ricotta, albahaca, and is named after the most famous opera composer Vincenzo Bellini, born in Catania.
Taste as well the typical arancini for a snack or a light meal. It is a ball of fried rice prepared in Sicily in a thousand ways: filled with meat, spinach, ham or eggplant. It must be eaten by holding the tip. They are very good at restaurantes such as Etoile d'Or (the Piazza Umberto), Spinella (Via Etnea 298) or Da Ernesto. (Via Ruggero di Lauria 91/93)
Do not forget the famous Catanese pastry and, especially, the popular cannoli -a flaky pastry filled with ricotta and nuts-, the cassata alla ricotta or almond and pistachio pastries. They can be found in many local street Etnea, as in Pasticceria Savia, one of the most prestigious bakeries in Catania. (Via Etnea 300 http://www.savia.it/)
One of the attractions of the Catanian cuisine are its chioschi , a octagonal shaped booths at strategic shadowy places, where thirst and temporary fatigue are relieved. Some refreshments are traditionally served based in fruit syrups mixed with carbonated water time.
Each neighborhood has its own chioschi. It comes to be the place where people get together at any time as they are open almost 24 hours a day. Here you will appreciate the habits and customs of the Catanese.
The first chioschi called Costa, opened in 1986 in Piazza Stesicoro, and later opened Vezzosi in Piazza Duomo. The Costa moved to Piazza Santo Spirito and Vezzosi moved to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III, where they are today.
Picture Pasta alla Norma by Paoletta S.
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