Saturday, April 6, 2019


Our raining weekend forecast has changed, still would not have been a good weekend to visit Etna though, it is not very clear.  We start off this morning with the 8:40 train to Catania.  This is the second biggest city in Sicily, one that we at first were not that interested in visiting, but it turned out to be a fantastic day.  This is the city that we flew into when we arrived in Sicily over one month ago now, wow it has gone by fast.  We took the train to Centrale station a little over 1 hour from Siracusa.  We then had about a 20 minute walk then to the main touristy parts of the Catania.  

Flamingos from the train

one of the pretty views along the way, it was not always this pretty

.87 per hour parking, who carries .87 with them?

We were on a bit of a schedule, as we knew the Duomo closed at 12:30 for tourists, and the fish market closed at around 2.  Turns out we had lots of time to visit.  The Duomo Square is very pretty, as most of them are in Europe.  Like most Duomo Squares no cars are allowed.  Very interesting here is the statue of the elephant right outside the Duomo, we understand the elephant is to protect the Duomo from Mount Etna eruptions.

A church we visited on our walk to the Duomo

Elephant statue protecting the city from Mt Etna eruptions


We found where the tourists are

Inside Duomo

Next off we visit the Pescheria (fish market), which is huge, and totally different from the market in Ortigia where we are.  Things are actually a little more expensive here, and we may not have as many vendors but we nearly have all the same things.  But, it is really fun walking around in Cantania, it is huge, vendors are yelling out what they have to sell, lots of locals are out buying, and of course tourists are all mixed in just to add to the confusion.  The fish market turns into the cheese market, spice market, butchers, and any sort of junk you may want to buy.  This market is all outdoors, what a mess when it is over I am sure.  It happens daily except Sundays, I can’t imagine the set up and take down every day.

Behind this water fountain is where the fish market starts

We next visit the castle.  We did not do the tour, but one of the most interesting things is this castle was originally surrounded by water, but it is now land locked from a volcano eruption.  The wall protected the town so nothing was destroyed there, and the castle was protected, but it is no longer surrounded by water.

scooter set up to transport propane

Castle is now landlocked, was once surrounded by water 

We spent quite a bit of time on Via Crociferi, which is a street full of palaces, monasteries, and churches.  Of course one of the churches had a walk up to the bell tower so we had to do that.  This was the best bell tower walk we have ever done.  First you visit the church on your own, then a guide comes up on the walk with you to the top.  You stop part way where the Nuns sat in the choir where they couldn’t be seen, then we continued up to the top.  Our guide was huffing and puffing, we laughed because he was way less than ½ our age, he is a university student. It was fantastic having him with us, he pointed out many of the focal points of the city, showed us where Mt Etna would be if it was a clear day, and showed us some more things we should go and visit.  It was a great tour. 

Preparing for Easter, these will be carried by men through the streets in processions during Easter

View of the convent on our climb up the bell tower

The choir loft surrounded by these wooden screens so the nuns could not be seen by the congregation

The monastery was large and very interesting to see. They had a sun calendar. Very much worth the visit.  

This was a huge zodiac sundial in the monastery, very interesting

Definitely a new modern stain glass window has been added 

This building was huge!

We next visited another monastery which has been taken over by the University, unfortunately the English tour wasn’t for a couple of hours and the tour on our own was not very exciting.

We did learn why these amazing balconies are shaped like this all over the place, it was for when women wore big hooped skirts so they could stand outside.

Time for lunch, we stopped at this little place on the way back into the main area of town.  We should have known to move on when they weren’t sure what a spritz was, then I said Aperol Spritz, oh yes they have that.  We each had a full glass of Aperol, not so yummy.  It did come with a bowl of olives, a bunch of little bread, and some mystery meat that if Andre is not feeling well tomorrow I will know what it is from.  I am pretty sure he did not even take a picture of it.  I guess this will be lunch for now.

when you live on the top floor this is one way to bring up your shopping

Our drink stop turned into lunch

We the walked Via Etnea  where Andre saw a Palazzo that the door was open. There are 100's of Palazzos in this town but the majority and not open to the public. Either the government has taken them over or they are Museum or apartments.  This one was hosting an art exhibition of probably 30 artists of all types. A quick visit and the price was right.  Also along the way we visited the market (household, clothes and food). It was very large and after 10 minutes we exited on a side street after only visiting 1/4. Too busy and too much things to see in this city to spend some time at the market.

Art exhibit in this beautiful palace

There a Roman amphitheatre that once held 7000 people but only part of it has been excavated. The sign said that if opened again at 2:30 but either we misread or the sign is incorrect. There was also a beautiful building next to it that the owner gave to the city after an earthquake to use as a hospital.

Tiny portion of the 7000 seat theatre has been excavated, the rest remains under buildings

The composer Bellini is from Catania, so we have seen his name now many times since we have been here, including he practiced on the organ in the church that we did the bell tower tour of earlier today.  We also have seen pasta in nearly every restaurant "norma", turns out this eggplant sauce is named after Bellinis famous opera.  Our next stop is Villa Bellini, which we thought was going to be a mansion, but is actually a beautiful garden/green space.  It was so much bigger than it looked.  We had a nice walk through here, along with an ice cream.  This is one thing we have commented that Siracusa is missing, there is no nice green space.

Notice that date on top in flowers, wonder if someone is there at midnight?

The main street here is Via Etnea, I guess if you go to the very end of this street is leads you right up to Mt Etna, we couldn’t see it today unfortunately.  There are lots of shops/restaurants on this street, and no traffic on Saturdays allowed so lots of people just milling around.  Walked by one beautiful university building and ended up at the Duomo.  Beautiful afternoon and we are now in our tshirts.

A few more stops along some of the side streets that the guidebook mentioned. One was a place where the building on the 4 street corners had eight marble columns imported from Rome. 
Next we go find the Roman Theatre, took a while for us to find the entrance, we walked by it at least once.  We decide that we don’t need to go into another Roman Theatre.

This was a nice square, each corner has 8 columns that came from Rome

I think we are both getting a little tired by now. Decision made to head to the train station as there is a train leave at 4:30PM instead of waiting for the 6:30 one.

One more church visit as it is on the same street as we are walking to the train station You can see where the nuns would have stood behind the wooden lattice to sing.

A small detour and we find the Bellini theatre that looks absolutely beautiful, the theatre district here is amazing.  I would have loved to have seen the inside, I’m not sure why they don’t give tours here. 

This theatre must be gorgeous inside, too bad the big transport is parked outside

Off to the train station, we were a little skeptical when we got our tickets and went to our track and saw only 2 cars on the train.  We were killing ourselves laughing, along with the couple that came up with their luggage behind us.  The train this morning we had the entire car to ourselves, on the way home we still had the 4 seats to ourselves facing one another, but the car was pretty full.  Only excitement on the train was we passed by some water that had about 100 flamingoes on it, on the way there we saw only 6.  We were the only ones excited on the train….

A professional photographer was taking pictures of these models arriving at the train station, who knows maybe we will see it in print one day

Our huge train we took home

Back home and we have a 20 minute walk from the train station to the island we are on.  I told Andre I didn’t care what it cost I was going for a “real” spritz at the sunset bar that we have walked by every day.  Spritz here were 7.00 Euro each, so we each had 2.  Our bar bill was much less than the 3 guys in front of us that ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon at 300.00 Euro a bottle.  We got chips, peanuts and croutons for our snacks with our drinks, they got strawberries, meats and a really nice tray with their champagne!  

Yeah, a real spritz!

Sunset bar is full tonight, we have passed by here many nights with not one person there

Next we walked to a pizza place not far from where our apartment is, 2 pizzas total 8.50 Euro total, so we made up for the pricy drinks with cheap supper.  Plus enough pizza left over for lunch tomorrow.  Got home and we opened a bottle of the .99 Euro bottle of wine we bought when walking home from the train.

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