It has been a while since I was in Catania, Sicily but I still haven’t really made my mind how I feel about the place. It could have been the weather hot, humid and stormy. It could have been where I was staying C.C.Ly Hostel. The Hostel was lovely but it was in a bit of a ghetto area, as in there were ladies of the night on every second corner. It actually took me a while to notice this but fortunately just in time as I was going to start taking photos of a woman standing in a dilapidate ally way, thinking to myself ‘man what an artistic shot, with the buildings falling down, the cobbled stones, the glimmer of the sun off the oil stains in the street with the starkness of this woman dressed in a red dress and heels, standing next to a very scary woman who is sitting on a stool, weighing in at 150 plus kilos, glaring in my direction……oh…..oh, maybe I shouldn’t take that shot and I high tailed it out of there back to my hostel. Though again I have digressed into a rambling tirade, please accept my apologies though I am sure it will happen again. It could have been the epic hangover I had after losing a game of Kings which involved 1.5L of white wine. I just don’t know how I felt, it had an unsettling feel, you always felt on edge like you are waiting for a summer storm but this also at the same time made it appealing.
There isn’t much to do in Catania the main things I achieved whilst there was eating, drinking, eating and climbing Mount Etna. There is some beautiful buildings there which are run down and dirty and fading, you can see that it would have been a grand old city back in the day and also before the recent recession. It is also famous for being the home of the Mafia. Not that I saw any who looked remotely like the Godfather or Tony Soprano only offensively tacky magnets and posters of stereo typical Italians.
Catania is also the place where I was properly introduced to the apéritif, order yourself a drink in the early evening and wha-la food is served with it, normally nuts, chips and sometimes savory pastries. Some places are better than others but none the less some food with your drink is a good way to keep costs down. I really think Australia should adopt this as it keeps you in the bar that’s for sure and I am someone that loves to nibble whilst drinking. Also I became addicted to Aperol Spritz made with prosecco. In the words of my traveling companions and long time friends Hootie and Dog ” I want it in and around my mouth.” I know, totally charming saying but once you have tasted one on a hot afternoon after laying on a beach all day, you will understand ” in and around.”
There are a few places I would recommend you visit if you do find yourself in Catania for a few days I actually don’t think you need much more but remember by this stage I have seen enough ruins and visited my share of churches and museums. I was in Catania to meet up with my friends who I hadn’t seen in months and honestly I nearly started crying like a little girl when I saw them. I have been friends with these girls for over 10 years we have been through so much together and just having that small piece of home show up made me realize that I do miss it, but not enough to go home just yet….Now back to my recommendations
1) There is one in the middle of the city, sunk down bellow street level you can do a tour of it but I missed the opening. It is located in Piazza Stesicoro. Also this tour is an audio tour that you can down load with your iPhone or Android phone. They have them for the whole city free. The link is posted at the end of this entry.
2) Teatro Romano, again an amphitheater that was used by both the Romans and the Greeks and was then built over and no one had any idea that it was hidden under the city. It’s still being excavated and I found it really beautiful and amazing that something could be forgotten. It makes me wonder what other delights bellow beneath the earth that have been forgotten and lost from the record books. I think this is the part of me that always wanted to be an archeologist and explorer, looking for the unknown, looking back on the past to understand the future.
3) Fish Market- This is located behind the Fontana dell Elefant (statue of an elephant that I have no idea why it is there, I am sure a guide book or google will tell you). I would recommend closed toed shoes here and come early to get the freshest food. It’s pretty cool and you can see massive sword fish and other amazing creatures that have been pulled from the depths of the oceans. This is a more traditional market and much smaller than the other market on the tourist track in Catania.
4) Head to Piazza Carlo Alberto and you will find one of the largest markets I have ever seen. I has everything from fresh produce, knock off hand bags, shoes, ear rings, buttons, underwear and rugs and it goes for miles. Winding in and out of all the surrounding streets under giant canopies. It’s a little piece of bargain paradise. Filled with people yelling and amazing smells and some not so amazing smells. Make sure you walk through the whole thing, your promised to find a bargain and I am still kicking myself for not buying that leather bomber jacket. FOOL.
5) Savia, on the corner of Via Umberto I and Via Etna. The best arancini you will ever have. If your not sure what arancini is think rice in a ball deep fried with cheese and other delicious things inside. If you have the chance to get one in and around your mouth please try the ragu or if you have time try every single flavor and then head back into this place and eat all the desserts in sight.
6) now this is a restaurant that has traditional Sicilian food and is not a tourist trap. I can’t remember it’s name but it is at the end of Via Montesano which is off Via Etna and it’s located under a massive tree. The food was amazing, ask the waiter for a recommendation and you will most likely get something drool worthy. I personally recommend the meat balls wrapped in lemon leaf and a pasta containing aubergine (eggplant) and wash it down with a Sicilian red wine, try the Lamùri. Again excuse me for saying this but get that in and around your mouth even if not in Sicily, hunt it down order it online and enjoy it, if you like a damn tasty full body red.
Finally make sure you climb Mount Etna the fiery mistress dominating the Sicilian landscape. For that adventure see the next entry.
Audio Tours: www.listentosicily.it