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Sat on the plains beneath Mount Etna on the east side of Sicily, Catania is a diverse and fascinating city. Completely destroyed in 1693 by a volcanic eruption, the entire area was rebuilt in a Baroque style using mainly grey lava stone. There are plenty of historic treats to discover. The city has two Roman Amphitheatres, the larger of which could hold 14,000 people. You can still see some of the remains today above ground, but much of it has been preserved as a series of alcoves and tunnels underground. Ursino Castle in the Piazza Federico di Svevia was an important fortification before the volcano damage, and has now been made into a museum for the area. The duomo, or cathedral, in Catania dates back to 1092, although it has been significantly renovated since then. It’s an impressive piece of architecture, with several royal tombs in its grounds.The city’s two large street markets are well worth visiting to soak up the colours, smells and sounds. You might even pick up a few bargains! With its wide streets and simple grid layout, Catania is far less hectic than Palermo, one of the island’s other major urban areas.
Many visitors to Catania are heading to the towering Mount Etna for trekking and photo opportunities. Rent a car in Catania and you can visit the volcano and then explore the surrounding area at your own pace.