At the foot of Mount Etna, Catania has been destroyed several times over its 3,000 year history, but each time it re-emerges from the ashes and rubble to become even stronger. The last great eruption of 1669 destroyed great swathes of Catania, but the fortified city walls saved much of the historic centre and diverted the lava into the port. Two decades later, a huge earthquake destroyed the city down to rubble, and it was rebuilt into the wonderful place it is today in a Baroque style. Surprisingly, given its ancient cultural past, Catania has only recently started to attract tourists in large numbers who wish to experience the imposing presence of the Etna volcano and the archaeological sites of the city. Just outside Catania has been built the Etnaland Themepark, the largest in Southern Italy, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
Location: On the eastern coast of Sicily
A few kilometres north of the peaceful Oasi del Simeto Nature Reserve lies the hustling port city of Catania. The well maintained A18 and A19 roads connect it to the rest of the island, and the Fontanarossa Airport can be found only 7 kilometres from the city centre. A drive up to the slopes of Mount Etna takes less than one and a half hours, and the active volcano dominates the northern skyline of the city.
Business: A strong industry sector
Since the 19th century, Catania has been known for its petrochemical industry, and that is still true today. It is the headquarters for many pharmaceutical and chemical companies as well as an important base for STMicroelectronis, a leading microchip manufacturer. For conferences and business meetings, there are many hotels that offer facilities, and under 50 kilometres away is the impressive Palazzo dei Congressi of Taormina, which can cater for up to 1,300 guests. With an impressive road and rail network, there is easy and quick access to all venues.
Culture: 3,000 years of history to discover
From the ancient Greeks in 730 BC, the Romans from 263 BC, and on through the Middle Ages to the present day, Catania has been subject to many rulers, architects, and catastrophes. The ash and lava from multiple volcanic eruptions have layered the history beneath the present city buildings, and only in recent years have the archaeological remains started to be uncovered. Even without these ancient Roman and Greek remains, the city has a wonderful Baroque style of architecture, and a walk amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the old town is a walk amongst some of the finest buildings in Southern Italy.
Activities: Take a culinary tour of the city
Starting at the Fontana dell'Elefante, get your picture taken next to Catania's symbol of Liotru the elephant, and take a walk towards the harbour via the Palazzo Biscari, where you can stop and enjoy an espresso and a snack in typical Italian style. Continue through the winding streets, admiring the architecture surrounding you until you come to the promenade running alongside the seafront and the port. From here take your pick of the many charming seafood restaurants and order the Catanian signature dish of Pasta alla Norma that is dedicated to the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini. If you are lucky, after dinner take in one of his operas at the Teatro Massimo Bellini for a truly memorable experience.