Catania, calm hedonism at the foot of the volcano
Catania (the so-called "Milan of the South") apply to the "carpe diem" with parsimony. It is what you have to live next to Etna, a volcano used to wreak havoc.
From the 360 degree views of The Roof terrace, on the roof of the Una Palace hotel in Catania, you can easily see the dichotomy of the place. On the one hand the look faces the certainty of the sea, always faithful and reassuring. On the other there are an uncertainty, that of Etna, the largest volcano in Europe that from time to time it is noted beyond its imposing presence. But Sicilians know how to react to each "surprise" of their neighbor and have already shown that they are not intimidated. They live in a heredism nothing frantic. Knowing how to live Italian at its best.
The city, the second largest on the island and a World Heritage Site since 2002, It is known as the "Milan of the South", but we must not forget that in the Eastern part of Sicily they are something particular: they are Ionian Mediterranean, by the sea that bathes its coasts.
For centuries Etna wreaked havoc on Catania, although the city has managed to adapt its physiognomy to these setbacks and maintains part of its baroque. The star is the cathedral located in Piazza del Duomo, where another of its icons is also found, the Fountain of the Elephants. Aware of the dangerous consequences of the incendiary character of Etna, in Catania they apply to "carpe diem" with parsimony. It is one of those places where the nap is not a personal option. It is a general measure. Almost no store stays open between one and four in the afternoon and even the streets doze.
Knowing how to live Italian at the foot of Etna © Una Palace de Catania
The activity is concentrated early in the day, with the gastronomic markets and on the terraces and wine houses at dusk. In the morning, taking the Via Garibaldi from Piazza del Duomo, the grocery stores that occupy the adjoining alleys go outside with their food stalls. Highlights fresh fish, especially in Piazza Alonzo di Benedetto. Marine species probably never seen and curiosities like the spatola. It is a variant of swordfish (pesce sciabola) that is named and cooked differently from the rest of Italy. "It's like the cazzo, which we call here minga," explains the shopkeeper, genius and figure, in the purest Sicilian style. The walk through the market is the perfect opportunity to peck with oysters.
The sunset from The Roof is surprisingly calm. Its views over the rooftops from this seventh floor on the Via Etnea include the silent threat of the volcano, which dominates the panoramic view of the place.When the sky is dyed red lava, the image is to remember. In their letter they resort to the increasingly widespread formula of apperitive: for ten euros you can have a cocktail accompanied by a buffet with the "must" of Italian cuisine: pommodori secci, cheese selection and salamis.
The city of Catania © Thinkstock
From there you see the nearby Villa Bellini, a curious park between Via Sant Euplio and Via San Tomaselli. And in the alleys that cross the Via Etna vinaterias proliferate. Typical of the area is to eat arancino, a ball of battered rice, fried and stuffed with chicken, cheese or spinach. Crespella are stuffed soft fritters (anchovies). For the most curious, the Spritz is a local soda that also tries to become popular in this area of the country. It consists of adding to the water with syrup gas of the most varied flavors, such as red tangerine. You can hardly compete with a good wine or beer.
Who does not settle for admiring the volcano from afar, there are daily excursions and whoever opts for the beach there are also opposing options. At the east end of Corso Italia, where some of the boutiques of the big fashion firms are dispersed, you reach Piazza Europa. A few minutes walk you reach San Giovanni, a lively black lava public beach, with as many gigantic rocks as fluorescent speedos. More conventional, because of the sand and bathing clothes, are the beaches that surround the lighthouse located in the southern part of the coast.
Catania markets are essential © Corbis