Tuesday, June 20, 2017

263. Farewell to Catania

Well my three weeks in Catania is up and it's time to pack the bags, clean the apartment, order the taxi and move on to my next exciting destination ... It has been an interesting and very enjoyable stay in this very " Italiate " Sicilian city - both architecturally and atmospherically ...

I have to make a confession that Italian is my favourite nationality - and my favourite language also - apologies to everyone else. I am just in love with this country and the people who live here - and sitting at a sidewalk cafe with a coffee in hand and listening-in to the conversations around me and observing the locals discussing "who-knows-what" ( because my Italiano is very basic and limited to just a handful of words ... ) - has been my favourite morning pastime ... I have come to the conclusion that there are two Italian emotions - happy or argumentative ... !!! ... My stay has been happy with absolutely no arguments or cross words ... !!! ...

 
I love the 17th to 20th century architecture in this city ...



Doors that open in onto inner courtyards





Festa della Repubblica is the Italian National Day and Republic Day, which is celebrated on 2 June each year. The day commemorates the referendum held in 1946, in which the Italian people were called to the polls to decide on the form of government they wanted following the Second World War and the fall of Fascism. With 12,717,923 votes for a republic and 10,719,284 for the monarchy, the male descendants of the House of Savoy were sent into exile.
And here in University Square in the centre of the city the occasion was celebrated by lots of officials talking and handing out medals to deserving civic leaders cheered on by the locals ( at least I'm pretty sure that was what was going on ... ) ...

 


There are several ways a tourist can get around the city - by open-topped buses or very camp choo-choo vehicles - or as this tourist prefers - walking the endless cobble-stoned streets ...
 

      








Here and there and hidden behind fences of bougainvillea or brightly coloured oleanders are the more salubrious palazzi ...  



 







... and my very favourite street - Via Antonio Di Sangiuliano - with both sides of the incline lined with oleander trees and their clusters of sweet smelling brightly coloured flowers...

 

 




... more oleanders - this time on a roof-top garden ...





Monument celebrating Catania's greatest son 
surrounded with figures from his famous operas ...
 

The symbol of the city is u Liotru, or the Fontana dell'Elefante, assembled in 1736 by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. It portrays an ancient lavic stone elephant and is topped by an Egyptian obelisk from Syene. Legend has it that Vaccarini's original elephant was neuter, which the men of Catania took as an insult to their virility. To appease them, Vaccarini appropriately appended elephantine testicles to the original statue.



Fontana dell'Amenano
 The only location that the Amenano subterranean river surfaces in the city.

 Fontana di Proserpina

 Porta Garibaldi - a triumphal arch erected in 1768 to celebrate the marriage of 
Ferdinand I of Two Sicilies and Marie Caroline of Austria


Catania is a city of many churches that go back many centuries and represent the magnificent architecture of those ancient times. I visited but only a half-dozen of the 95 listed in Wikipedia ( not quite as many as in Naples or Rome ) – the rich Baroque decorations of gold, bronze and marble inside these impressive buildings becomes quite over-powering after a while.


The Church of St. Francis of Assisi Immaculate





Church of St. Francesco Borgia




Duomo di Catania
The Cathedral of Saint Agatha




The cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt several times because of earthquakes and eruptions of the nearby Mount Etna. It was originally constructed in 1078-1093, on the ruins of the ancient Roman Achillean Baths, by order of Roger I of Sicily, who had conquered the city from the Islamic emirate of Sicily.




In 1169 it was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake, leaving only the apse area intact. Further damage was caused by a fire in 1169, but the most catastrophic event was the 1693 earthquake, which again left it mostly in ruins. It was subsequently rebuilt in Baroque style.


Vincenzo Bellini's tomb ...


Teatro Massimo Bellini
The Catania Opera House





The Teatro Massimo Bellini was named after the local-born composer Vincenzo Bellini, it was inaugurated on 31 May 1890 with a performance of the composer's masterwork, Norma. 

Unfortunately for me the opera session is during the winter - so I missed out on seeing any productions - but I did take a guided tour ...


The theatre seats 1,200 patrons. The royal box has never been seated in by any member of royalty - however Il Duce Mussonlini did attend one performance during his fascist rein of Italy ...








The grand salon ...


mmmmm - ghosts maybe ...




The exterior of the house matches the distinctive Sicilian Baroque style 
of the neighboring buildings of the late 17th Century ...


 The Botanical Gardens

The Orto Botanico dell'Università di Catania
 - covering around 16,000 sq m -
 is operated by the University of Catania botany department ...







Realization of a garden was first attempted in 1847 with a purchase of land on the city outskirts, but the revolutions of 1848 rapidly led to its dispersion. In 1858 today's garden was established with the first plantings in 1862 of specimens obtained from other botanical gardens in Sweden, France, Naples, and Palermo. It was enlarged in 1865 with a new area dedicated to cultivation of indigenous Sicilian species, and in the early 1900s further enhanced by creation of the Giardino Botanico "Nuova Gussonea" on Mount Etna for cultivation of native mountain plants ...








... Just ten minutes from my apartment - a lovely cool oasis 
on my way home from exploring the hot city ...




Teatro Romano

The street frontage gives no hint to the archaeological area of the Theatre and Odeion sited behind the entry doors ...


Built in the first century AD on an existing Greek building site, the original theatre could seat about 7000 people. Over the following centuries the theatre had many uses - until the 5th century when it was abandoned and during the Middle Ages, houses were built over the theatre.




During the late 18th century and through to the mid 20th century, extensive restoration works have been carried out with the demolition of the Middle Ages houses and the suring up of the foundations. And today the ancient Roman theatre has been partly re-tuned and is used for contemporary plays and musical events ...




Below the tiered seats is a labyrinth of internal walkways and rooms that once housed ancient patrons and performers and musicians tuning up for their time on stage.




 


 


The Church of Saint Benedict

Probably the most note-worthy church in Catania is the magnificent San Benedetto - dedicated to St. Benedict of Nursia. It was built between 1704 and 1713 and is part of a complex including also the Abbey  Maggiore, connected by a covered bridge over the road.





The front of the church is under-going restoration works and is currently covered by scaffolding and mesh - so the entrance now is through the adjoining Monastery of Saint Benedict ...


 

Its most famous feature is the Angel's Staircase, a marble entrance stair decorated with statues of angels and surrounded by a wrought iron railings. The entrance door, in wood, has panels with Stories of St. Benedict.


  


Nothing quite prepares you for the extraordinary Baroque "bling" of this dazzling church ...


  
The interior, with a single nave of intricate marble inlays, is home to frescoes by Sebastiano Lo Monaco, Giovanni Tuccari and Matteo Desiderato. The vault is frescoed with scenes of the life of St. Benedict. The high altar is in polychrome marble with hardstone intarsia and bronze panels.


 


The gilded cages at the back of the church housed the nuns from the enclosed Benedictine order during the public masses ...




   
 after all that glitter and gorgeousness 
it's back out into the reality of the noisy street 
in search of lunch and caffeine ...

 
  ... then of course there is the newer 20th century city
with its designer label shops and chic cafes
but we wont go there ...
 

 ... and my favourite Catania image ...


... now it's time to walk out my apartment building doorway
for the last time, hop in the taxi to the Railway Station 
where Trenitalia waits to take me onto my next destination ...



... stay tuned ...