My Final Day – Discoveries of Catania
Located at the foot of Mount Etna, Catania has been buried seven times throughout history and the remains of the Ancient Greek and Roman Cities can still be found in layers underneath today’s city. Many of the buildings are baroque and Catania has many imposing churches and palaces.
The Teatro Massimo Bellini, made of two-coloured stone
I dumped my luggage and started on my exploration of Catania. I started walking the along the major thoroughfare and cut into some side streets where I found the famous Teatro Massimo Bellini. The composer Vincenzo Bellini was born in this city, and this theatre, inaugurated in 1890 and highly renowned, was named after him.
My stroll continued and I had a peek into some of the hidden courtyards. The streets were fairly narrow and people were congregating in the streets to chat and do various chores. On this rather hot day I was looking to cool off and desperately wanted to find some green space to sit down and relax in. The houses in Catania are built very closely together and there are hardly any trees or small parks to be found. I was fortunate though and located Giardino Bellini, the city’s largest park. Its elevated terraces feature beautiful city views and a central Art Nouveau band stand anchors a public place that features refreshment booths and benches along the edge. Looking north I caught a great glimpse at the imposing silhouette of Mount Etna.
The bandstand in the Giardino Bellini
After a brief rest I walked down some stairs, past the Teatro Metropolitano, to Via Etnea, Catania’s largest shopping street. On this rather expansive thoroughfare, designer store after designer store are located next to one another and the locals are busy shopping. On the Piazza Stesicoro, an extensive public space with many vending booths, I walked eastwards past a row of modern buildings back to the train station. There I decided to just hop into a local bus and see where it might take me.
Eastward view from the Giardino Bellini
I love to use public transport in any foreign city because you get a real flavour of the people and you cover more ground than walking. It’s a great and affordable sightseeing tool. Seniors were returning from shopping, office workers were on their way home and teenagers were enjoying their freedom and playing rambunctious games on the bus. The ride took me through downtown, on Via Etnea into the residential areas in the foothills of Mount Etna, where there was a bit more space between the houses. Trees and shrubs were starting to make an appearance and it felt that there was more breathing room compared to the narrow grid of streets downtown. About an hour and a half later I hopped off the bus and found a nice little table in a café right opposite the Teatro Bellini. I had a light snack and enjoyed watching the passers-by from my little perch in front of this historic theatre.
Fountain at the eastern entrance of the Giardino Bellini
Rather exhausted from my many days of adventures I decided to retreat back to my hotel room and get organized for my 6:20 am departure tomorrow morning. I downloaded my pictures and went through the photos that I had shot over the last three weeks and thought that Sicily is a true feast for the senses. This extended Italian language study trip was definitely worth it: from my first 8 days in beautiful Taormina and my excursions to Siracusa and my drive around Mount Etna to my 7 days on a sailboat, cruising through the Eolian Islands, to my local discoveries around Milazzo, Cefalu and the Nebrodi Mountains, I concluded that Sicily is definitely one of the most diverse and beautiful places I have ever visited. I’ll be back for sure…