Mt Etna looking quite peaceful. Note the wisps of steam cominng from the top of the mountain.
Mt Etna looking quite peaceful. Note the wisps of steam cominng from the top of the mountain.

Catania in Sicily is overlooked by Mt Etna, a volcano that erupted in 2002.  You can still see smoke steaming out of her top. You can take guided walk tours to Mt Etna, though we did not do that for a lack of time on our part.

Catania was familiar in terms of its architecture – just extremely run down when you compare it to other parts of Italy.  There was a major earthquake in 1667, which destroyed all the buildings, so much of the buildings we saw occurred after that time.  The architecture was familiar but alot of buildings were also disused and bricked up, probably reflecting the lack of affordability in the city.  Because of this, Catania is relatively inexpensive.  A cup of coffee was about $1 Euro, which is cheap. If Catania had the funds to “renovate” and clean up the city, it would look as swish as any other port city on the Italian mainland.

"Welcome to Catania"
"Welcome to Catania"
Looking up at the dome of the Duomo, from the walled fortifications below (at sea level).
Looking up at the dome of the Duomo, from the walled fortifications below (at sea level).
Catanian streetscape.
Catanian streetscape.
IMG_8044
Love the lamps.
At the top of the hill.
At the top of the hill.
Climbing up a street with a steep incline.
Climbing up a street with a steep incline.
People watching.
People watching.
Peeping into courtyards ...
Peeping into courtyards ...

Catania is also part of “ancient history” – having been influenced/invaded by the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arab at one stage of its past.  I remember some brief snippets of it from school, but not a whole lot of it.  At the time, I was studying about places that seemed so far away, not just in time but in distance as well.  It felt like I was studying about a mythical land – that was how far from reality it felt.  But being in these places, I really felt connected to how old these places are.  In terms of building and architecture, Australia is just a twinkle compared to these civilisations.

But all this is lost on my son.  He was just excited to be in mafia country, though I was telling him that Palermo is the place to be for that.

This Duomo is an example of Sicilian Baroque architecture.
This Duomo is an example of Sicilian Baroque architecture.
Statues outside the Duomo.
Statues outside the Duomo.
Looking down the nave of the Duomo.
Looking down the nave of the Duomo.
Isn't this just beautiful?
Isn't this just beautiful?
Piazza Duomo - the square in front of the cathedral.
Piazza Duomo - the square in front of the cathedral.
Statue of the granite lavic elephant, located in Piazza Duomo.  The elephant is also a symbol of Saracen dominance when the Arabs held Sicily around 900 AD.
Statue of the granite lavic elephant, located in Piazza Duomo. The elephant is also a symbol of Saracen dominance when the Arabs held Sicily around 900 AD.

The Duomo in Catania is the equivalent of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.  I was amazed at how many churches Catania had.  Other than the Duomo that you have in the main town suqare, there was almost a church on every other street corner – in the city anyway.  If the town had money, I’m sure it was all spent on the churches.

Statue of St Francis of Assissi, outside the church that bears his name.
Statue of St Francis of Assissi, outside the church that bears his name.
Yet another church tucked away at the end of a street.
Yet another church tucked away at the end of a street.
Archway, possibly old gateway.  There are at least 4 other churches or monasteries located on this street.
Archway, possibly old gateway. There are at least 4 other churches or monasteries located on this street.

Other than the Duomo, we only went into one other church, which was half completed.  There’s a roof over it and everything, but incomplete columns, and very few carved statues and the like.  War and conflict interrupted the raising of funds from the population. Still, the nave of this church was very impressive – about 100 m deep.  We couldn’t see into it completely as there was scaffolding in the middle restoring this incomplete church.

The incompleted Cathedral.
The incompleted Cathedral.
It's sufficiently finished to have beautiful features.
It's sufficiently finished to have beautiful features.
Astronomical calendar using movement of the sun across the dome of the church to tell you the date and time of year.
Astronomical calendar using movement of the sun across the dome of the church to tell you the date and time of year.
Stained glass window in the crypt of the incomplete Cathedral.  Crypts are the first level of construction and is the foundation structure to the Cathedral.
Stained glass window in the crypt of the incomplete Cathedral. Crypts are the first level of construction and is the foundation structure to the Cathedral.

On the way back to the ship, we walked through another market.  And again, there were fantastically fresh fruits and vegetables.  It really made me want to open my Jamie Oliver cook book and start cooking Italian.  There were all sorts of cheeses, cured meats, and just fresh meat.  Incidentally, in the heat, butchers still sold their products with no refridgeration – just like the wet markets in Asia.  It was nice.  Living in Australia, I’ve definitely gotten used to buying my meat in supermarkets and specialist butchers, with glass display cabinets and the like.  I guess the Italians can do what they do because their meat is a lot fresher, ie. more recently slaughtered.

Look at how fresh the fruits and vegetables are.
Look at how fresh the fruits and vegetables are.
Cured hams and packaged pastas.
Cured hams and packaged pastas.
You've got to go nutty over these nuts.
You've got to go nutty over these nuts.
Fruit stall seller.
Fruit stall seller, who looks a bit nutty.
Market streetscape.
Market streetscape.

We stopped by an old castle, which was now a museum.  Saw a few roman statues, phoenician artifacts and many other items.  But we had to rush through the museum in about 15 minutes, as the museum was going to be closed for their afternoon siesta.  Yes, I can understand the siesta thing, but it’s very inconvenient when you’re sightseeing.  Basically, the Mediterranean sea port towns we visited all honoured the siesta, each varying different start times.  Some places at noon, others at 1 pm.  Siesta lasted at least 2 hours.

Moated castle built on top of a walled fortification looking out to sea.  This would have been an important embattlement.
Moated castle built on top of a walled fortification looking out to sea. This would have been an important embattlement.
Internal courtyard of castle.
Internal courtyard of castle.
Sarcophagus lid of a Knight from the Order of the Golden Fleece.  This was modelled on the English Order of the Garter, but dedicated to St Andrew.
Sarcophagus lid of a Knight from the Order of the Golden Fleece. This was modelled on the English Order of the Garter, but dedicated to St Andrew.

Having said that, once I experienced the heat of the Mediterranean sun, I can understand the siesta.  You just want to get out of the sun.  We felt the same way, so we started to head back to the ship for a spot of lunch and a laze by the pool.  You know, I never thought the Mediterranean sun could be so hot, but I was wrong.  It’s usually hottest between 1 pm to 3 pm.  By that time, I had completely wilted.

Taking a break - just like us.
Taking a break - just like us.
Italy has at least 4 levels of police/law enforcement.  This photo is either of the Polizia or Carabinieri.
Italy has at least 4 levels of police/law enforcement. This photo is either of the Polizia or Carabinieri. But I don't which it is.
Little fishing boats.
Little fishing boats.

For more information on Catania, click on this link.

For more information on Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, click on this link.