Isola Bella (Isula Bedda, in Sicilian dialect, and Beautiful Island, in English) is a small island located near the beach with the same name, in the Ionian Sea, in Taormina. Sometimes, when the tide is low, Isola Bella connects to the beach through a narrow sandy strip, becoming a peninsula. The beach in front of the island is also beautiful, but is made of pebbles and the sea floor is rocky, making it uncomfortable for some people. The beach is free, but the entrance to the Isola Bella Nature Reserve costs 4 euros. SHORT HISTORY The island was donated in 1806 by Ferdinand I of Bourbon to Pancrazio Ciprioti, Mayor of Taormina. In 1890, it was purchased by Florence Trevelyan, who built a small house on the island. The island was later inherited by the lawyer Cesare Acrosso, the godson adopted by Salvatore Cacciola, husband of Florence Trevelyan. In 1954, Isola Bella was bought for 38,000₤ by the brothers Leone and Emilio Bosurgi, who built a village with 12 autonomous residences and a tiny swimming pool nearby, in order to host their friends. The Bosurgi family owned Sanderson, a historic citrus processing company. In 1982, the bankruptcy of the Read more [...]
The Cathedral of Sant’Agata is the Cathedral of Catania, dedicated to the martyr Saint Agatha, located in the main square of the city, Piazza del Duomo. SHORT HISTORY The church had a tumultuous history, being repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt after the earthquakes occurred in the area. A first church was built around 1086 on the ruins of the Achilliane Baths dating back to Roman times. On February 4, 1169, an earthquake completely destroyed the ceiling of the church, killing many people gathered in the Cathedral. In 1194, under the reign of Henry VI, a fire caused considerable damage to the structure. In 1693, the terrible earthquake of Val di Noto destroyed the Cathedral almost completely, leaving only the apse and the facade. The bell tower was also put to the ground. The reconstruction of the church was made during the 18th century. The current building is the work of the architect Girolamo Palazzotto, who is responsible for the interior, while Giovanni Battista Vaccarini designed the facade, which was built between 1734 and 1761. In 1857, the bell tower was completed, and the current layout of the churchyard was built in the 19th century. ARCHITECTURE The facade of the Read more [...]
Fontana Pretoria is a spectacular fountain located in the heart of the historic centre of Palermo, in the square with the same name, Piazza Pretoria. The fountain is decorated with sculptures of the Twelve Olympians and other mythological and allegorical figures. SHORT HISTORY The fountain was built in 1554, in Florence, by Francesco Camilliani, for the garden of Don Luigi Alvarez de Toledo. In 1573, driven by his debts and about to move to Naples, Don Luigi sold the fountain to the Palermo Senate. The fountain arrived in Palermo on May 26, 1574, disassembled in 644 pieces, with some sculptures being damaged during transport or retained by the previous owner. Therefore, some adaptations were necessary and some pieces were added. The recomposition of the fountain was made by Camillo Camilliani, son of Francesco, with the help of Michelangelo Naccherino, and Fontana Pretoria was finished in 1581. In the 18th and 19th centuries, due to the nudity of statues, the square was popularly known as Piazza della Vergogna (Square of Shame). In November 1998, a restoration work was undertaken, which lasted until November 2003. In December of the same year, the fountain was reopened. ARCHITECTURE The fountain has a Read more [...]
Riflessi Acireale Palace Suites is a guesthouse in Acireale, located in Via San Martino, about 350 meters away from Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata. Riflessi Acireale provides air-conditioned rooms and a terrace. The guesthouse features family rooms. At the guesthouse, each room is equipped with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels. Continental and buffet breakfast options are available daily at the guesthouse. HOW TO GET THERE Riflessi Acireale Palace Suites is located about 1.8 kilometers away from the Acireale railway station. The closest bus stop is in Piazza del Duomo, on the bus Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4. However, the buses have a very low frequency in Acireale, it’s difficult to find the timetables and often there are delays and sudden cancellations of journeys, so the best solution to get to the railway station is a taxi.
Grande Albergo Maugeri is a 4-Star hotel in Acireale, located in Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, about 500 meters away from Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata. The classically decorated rooms of the hotel come with wooden floors, matching furniture and furnishings, and framed prints of modern paintings. The bathrooms are complete with free toiletries and large towels, and some include a hydromassage shower. Albergo Maugeri offers elegant public areas, a chic bar, and a refined restaurant, the Opera Prima. A continental breakfast is served daily. HOW TO GET THERE Grande Albergo Maugeri is located about 2.6 kilometers away from the Acireale railway station. To find the hotel on foot, use the map below.
Residenza Cavour is a modern and elegant guesthouse in Acireale, located in the heart of the town, about 60 meters away from Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata. The guesthouse offers several accommodation solutions, including single, double, triple and family rooms. The spacious rooms are characterized by a great attention to detail, elegant stylish furniture and the presence of every comfort: private bathroom, minibar, air conditioning, flat-screen TV and free WiFi. HOW TO GET THERE Residenza Cavour is located about 2.1 kilometers away from the Acireale railway station. The closest bus stop is in Piazza del Duomo, on the bus Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4. However, the buses have a very low frequency in Acireale, it’s difficult to find the timetables and often there are delays and sudden cancellations of journeys, so the best solution to get to the railway station is a taxi.
The Church of the Madonna dell’Indirizzo is a Neoclassical church in Acireale, located in the northern part of the town, in Via Cervo, close to Villa Belvedere. SHORT HISTORY The church was built in 1709 at the behest of the Nicolosi family. The current Neoclassical facade with a semicircular pronaos was built in 1812 on a design by Sebastiano Ittar, who was also responsible for Villa Nicolosi, which stands on a small hill to the left of the church. ART Inside the church, we can find the beautiful painting Santa Venera and Sant’Agata by Giacinto Platania. Platania was the greatest painter of Acireale during the 17th century. HOW TO GET THERE The Church of the Madonna dell’Indirizzo is located about 3 kilometers away from the Acireale railway station. The closest bus stop is in Piazza Indirizzo, about 100 meters away, on the bus Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4. However, the buses have a very low frequency in Acireale, it’s difficult to find the timetables and often there are delays and sudden cancellations of journeys, so the best solution to get to the railway station is a taxi.
The Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata is the Cathedral of Acireale, located in the beautiful Piazza del Duomo, next to the Basilica of Santi Pietro e Paolo. The church is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also to Santa Venera, patron saint of Acireale. The relics of the Saint are kept in a magnificent chapel of the right transept. SHORT HISTORY A first structure on this site was built during the 15th century, and it consisted of a single chapel with three walls, where a painting of the Annunciation was venerated. In the 16th century, the chapel was demolished, and a new, larger church was built, with aisles and a bell tower. The construction of the current Cathedral was approved by the Municipality of Acireale on October 8, 1597, and the work started the following year. The whole complex undergone continuous extensions and modifications since 1598, until it reached its present appearance in 1889. In 1693, during the earthquake of Val di Noto, the structure suffered significant damage. The vaults of the transept collapsed, the entire roof was compromised, the dome cracked, and the bell tower damaged. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade of the Read more [...]
The Church of Santa Maria del Carmelo is a church in Acireale, located at the crossroads of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Via Galatea, close to the historical center of the town. SHORT HISTORY The church was built before 1554. The date was deduced after the discovery of a plaque with the sepulchral inscription of Petra Castagna, nephew of Pope Urban VII, who died on September 1, 1554, and was buried there. During the pontificate of Clement VIII, the convent was closed. In 1621, during the pontificate of Gregory XV, after the Carmelites of Catania began the reform of the Carmelite Order, the convent and the church were renovated and reopened. The earthquake of January 11, 1693, caused the partial collapse of the structures. The terrible event was followed by the reconstruction of the convent and the enlargement of the church. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The church has a Baroque facade completed in 1786, bordered by pilasters for the entire height of the structure, decorated with columns and divided into three superimposed orders of decreasing dimensions. In the first order, a pair of Ionic columns with Corinthian capitals support a massive architrave that surmounts the only portal of the Read more [...]
Villa Belvedere, officially known as Giardino Vittorio Emanuele III, is the largest public garden of Acireale, located in the northern part of the town, in Piazza Indirizzo, at the end of Corso Italia. SHORT HISTORY Villa Belvedere was built in 1848, and took the name of Belvedere for the splendid panorama we can admire from its large balcony, located at the end of the main avenue. ARCHITECTURE From the balcony, the main attraction of the garden, we can see in front, below, the Timpa, the terrace of lava origin on which Acireale was built. To the left, we can observe the eastern coast of Sicily up to Taormina, and even Calabria during the clear days. To the right, we can see the same coast of Sicily, but this time to the south, up to the hills of Augusta. On the left side of the garden, there is a gazebo which, in the summer, is used for musical events. Further on, there is a small sports field recently built. On the right side of the garden, there is the basin with the marble sculptural group of Aci and Galatea, inspired by a work of art now found in the Read more [...]
The Collegiate Basilica of San Sebastiano is a Baroque church in Acireale, dedicated to Saint Sebastian, located in Via Vittorio Emanuele II, about 100 meters away from Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata. SHORT HISTORY During the Aragonese period, the ancient Church of San Sebastiano, built after the plague epidemic of 1466, was the main place of worship in the area. Between 1609 and 1644, from public funds provided by the Municipality and donations from the faithful, a new church was built about 150 meters further north, on the same Via Vittorio Emanuele II, and dedicated to the same Saint Sebastian. On July 13, 1652, the old Church of San Sebastiano, following an agreement between the Confraternity of San Sebastiano and the Confraternity of Sant’Antonio, changed its dedication to Saint Anthony of Padua. In 1693, the terrible earthquake of Val di Noto damaged the church. The Basilica was extensively renovated between 1699 and 1705, receving its current appearance. The church was elevated to a collegiate church by the papal bull of November 20, 1924. In December 1990, Pope John Paul II elevated it to the dignity of a minor basilica. ARCHITECTURE The structure is Read more [...]
Palazzo Municipale (Municipal Palace), also known as Loggia Giuratoria or Palazzo della Città (City Palace), is a Baroque palace in Acireale, located across Piazza del Duomo from the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata, next to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Palazzo Municipale houses the seat of the Municipality of Acireale. SHORT HISTORY Begun in 1659, Palazzo Municipale was badly damaged in 1693 by the terrible earthquake of Val di Noto. The reconstruction, based on a design by the architect Constantino Larcidiacon, lasted throughout the 18th century. Damaged again by the earthquakes of 1783 and 1818, the palace was restored in 1908, undergoing profound structural changes. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The main facade overlooking Piazza del Duomo, built in late Baroque style, is punctuated by elegant ashlar pilasters. On the ground floor, there is a long balustrade interrupted only by the entrance portal. On the first floor, the balconies, with wrought iron railings, are supported by Baroque masks. Other things worth mentioning regarding the design of the palace are the municipal coat of arms, placed above the portal, the epigraphs of the atrium, which constitute a sort of secular marble newspaper of the city, and the fresco Italy, Read more [...]
Basilica of Santi Pietro e Paolo is a Baroque church in Acireale, located in Piazza del Duomo, near the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata. The church is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. SHORT HISTORY A first church on this site dates back to the 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, the idea of building a new, larger church, appeared. The new church, with a single nave, a large sacristy and a side chapel, was completed in 1635. During the terrible earthquake of Val di Noto of 1693, the church was badly damaged. The chapel, the sacristy and the adjacent Chapel of Jesus and Mary collapsed. The reconstruction began in 1740, on a design by Pietro Paolo Vasta. In 1765, the facade was completed by Paolo Guarrera. In 1790, under the direction of Francesco Di Paola Patanè, the interior was renovated, replacing the wooden roof with a stone masonry vault. The church was transformed into a collegiate church in 1924, and was elevated to the rank of a minor pontifical basilica in 1933, by Pope Pius XI. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The church has an elegant facade in white stone from Syracuse, characterized by the superimposition Read more [...]
Piazza del Duomo is the main square of Acireale, located at the intersection of three important streets – Via Ruggero Settimo, Corso Umberto and Corso Savoia. SHORT HISTORY In the 14th century, some families from the Aci Castello area moved further north, where the village of Acireale was born. The place where the people settled is the current Piazza del Duomo. In 1596, the square was enlarged, and some buildings were demolished. Several shops were built around the square, and Piazza del Duomo also became the central market of the town. The pavement of the square was changed in 2009. The work was entrusted to the architects Paolo Portoghesi and Vito Messina, and to the engineer Aldo Scaccianoce. ARCHITECTURE The flooring of the square has a well-defined geometry, with concentric circles divided into 12 sectors for the first two rings and 24 sectors for the remaining ones. In the center of the square, there are six circles intertwined with each other according to a hexagonal geometry, with the coat of arms of Acireale in the center. To the north of the square, we can find the Cathedral of Acireale, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Read more [...]
Via Etnea is the main street of the historical center of Catania, which runs in the south-north direction for about 2.8 kilometers, from Piazza del Duomo to Tondo Gioeni. Via Etnea is the shopping street of Catania, and one of the busiest streets in the city, both during the day and at night. SHORT HISTORY Via Etnea was built at the end of the 17th century, following the disastrous earthquake of January 11, 1693, which almost destroyed the city of Catania. The Duke of Camastra, sent by the Viceroy of Sicily to oversee the reconstruction of the city, decided to trace new roads according to orthogonal directions, and started right from the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. A road was thus created that led from the Cathedral towards Etna. The street was initially called Via Duke of Uzeda, in honor of the viceroy of the time. Later, the street changed its name to Via Stesicorea, and finally to the current Via Etnea. The road was about 700 meters long, and ended in the current Piazza Stesicoro, where one of the gates of Catania was located. During the 20th century, the street developed further north, to Piazza Cavour, and then to Tondo Read more [...]
The Church of San Francesco d’Assisi all’Immacolata is a church in Catania, located in Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi, about 300 meters away from the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. SHORT HISTORY In ancient times, this site housed a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva. In 1254, the Franciscan Order settled in Catania, near the Church of San Michele, adjacent to the Ursino Castle. In 1260, the Franciscan friars moved to the current place, where the old Church of Speranza stood. In 1329, Eleanor of Anjou, Queen of Sicily and the wife of King Frederick II of Aragon, promoted the construction of a convent and church dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. Eleanor of Anjou was buried here in 1343. In 1693, the terrible eartquake of Val di Noto destroyed the church almost completely, and the structure was rebuilt in Baroque style in the following century. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The small churchyard is preceded by a staircase of Etna lava stone, with a wrought iron gate and a balustrade with four pillars that support the imposing statues of San Giuseppe da Copertino, Sant’Agata, Santa Chiara d’Assisi and San Bonaventura. The facade of the church, built around 1854, is decorated by Read more [...]
Palazzo Tezzano is a Baroque palace in Catania, located in Piazza Stesicoro, near the Roman Amphitheater of Catania and the Church of San Biagio. SHORT HISTORY Palazzo Tezzano was built starting with 1709 on a project by the architect Alonzo di Benedetto, at the behest of the count and physician Niccolò Tezzano. Later, the count donated the palace to the city of Catania, and the building was transformed into a hospital between 1720 and 1727. In 1837, due to the economic difficulties of the hospital, a part of the palace was rented by the Bourbon Intendency Office, to house its archive. A few years later, around 1844, some sections of the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Criminal Chancellery were also installed in the palace. The hospital was transferred between 1878 and 1880 in a building adjacent to the Church of San Nicolò l’Arena, and changed its name to Vittorio Emanuele II Hospital. After the transfer of the hospital, Palazzo Tezzano remained the seat of the Court until the construction of the new headquarters in Piazza Giovanni Verga, completed and inaugurated in 1953. The palace currently houses the Ceramographic Archive of the University of Catania, consisting of thousands of reproductions Read more [...]
The Church of San Biagio, also known as the Church of Sant’Agata alla Fornace, is a Neoclassical church in Catania, located in Piazza Stesicoro, a few meters away from the Roman Amphitheater of Catania. SHORT HISTORY Originally, there were two churches on this site, one dedicated to San Biagio (Saint Blaise), and the other dedicated to Sant’Agata (Saint Agatha), built in the 11th century atop the furnace where the Saint was martyred. After the terrible earthquake of 1693, which destroyed almost completely the city of Catania, a new church was built and the two parishes joined. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade of the church was built in Neoclassical style by the architect Antonino Battaglia. The facade is characterised by four columns in Corinthian style, supporting a triangular tympanum. The interior of the church has a single nave. The main altar is decorated with scrolls and columns and with the statues of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Mary Magdalene. On the right wall, there are the Chapel of San Biagio and the Chapel of Sant’Andrea Apostolo, while on the left wall we can find the Chapel of the Holy Family and the Chapel of Saint John of Nepomuk. Read more [...]
The Roman Amphitheater of Catania is an amphitheater located at the base of the Montevergine Hill, in Piazza Stesicoro, in Catania. SHORT HISTORY The amphitheater was probably built in the 2nd century – the exact date is uncertain, but the architecture suggests the era between the emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. The monument was enlarged in the 3rd century, thus tripling its size. Because the monument was abandoned for a long time, in the 5th century, Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, granted the inhabitants of the city the right to use the amphitheater as a quarry for building material. In the 11th century, it seems that Roger II of Sicily also used materials from the amphitheater for the construction of the Cathedral of Sant’Agata, including the granite columns that decorate the facade of the church. In the 13th century, the entrances of the monument were used by the Angevins to access the city during the so-called War of the Sicilian Vespers. In the following century, the entrances were walled up and the ruin was incorporated into the Aragonese network of fortifications. In 1505, the city senate granted Giovanni Gioeni the concession to use the stones of the monument for Read more [...]
The Church of Montevergine is a Baroque church in Noto, located in Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, about 150 meters away from the Cathedral of San Nicolò. The church is situated at the upper end of Via Corrado Nicolaci, the street which hosts every year the famous Infiorata di Noto. SHORT HISTORY The church was begun in 1695 on a project by the architect Vincenzo Sinatra, and was completed and opened for worship in 1762. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The church has a concave facade, without Baroque decorations, characterized by the measured geometry of its twin bell-towers and by a short staircase leading to the portal, bordered by two quadrangular columns. Inside, the church has a single nave, surrounded by Corinthian half-columns that give the whole interior a classical style. The 18th-century majolica floor of the nave is still intact. Of particular value is the Baroque central altar, in polychrome marble, surmounted by an artistic ciborium, rich in decorations. The paintings in the vault and in the four side altars are attributed to Costantino Carasi. One of them, the Deposition, is dated back to 1712, and the others depict the Marriage of the Virgin, the Madonna of the Read more [...]
The Church of Sant’Agata is a Baroque church in Noto dedicated to Saint Agatha, located in Via Raffaele Trigona, about 350 meters away from the Cathedral of San Nicolò. The church, now deconsecrated, was the only church dedicated to Saint Agatha – the Martyr Saint of Catania, in the entire province of Syracuse. SHORT HISTORY Although is the oldest church in Noto, this does not mean very old, because the whole city was rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1693. The church was built at the beginning of the 18th century on a project by Rosario Gagliardi, and consecrated in 1710. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The church stands on top of a scenic staircase, with an interesting parvis paved with lava stone and river pebbles at its base. The facade of the church has an elegant rectangular shape, and is characterized by its beautiful portal. The portal is surmounted by a triangular architrave framed by a double order of Ionic columns that support the central entablature. The central window, framed by precious garlands carved in bas-relief, is surmounted by a decorated tympanum. The interior, with a single nave, has the vault decorated with polychrome stuccoes, together with the wonderful Read more [...]
The Church of the Madonna del Carmine (Our Lady of Carmel) is a Baroque church in Noto, located in Via Ruggero Settimo, about 500 meters away from the Cathedral of San Nicolò. SHORT HISTORY The church was built by Corradino Randazzo and Vincenzo Sortino on a project by Rosario Gagliardi. The building was completed in 1743. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade of the church, slightly concave towards the inside, has a single portal, surmounted by a large coat of arms of the Carmelites, supported by two angels. Above the coat of arms, there is a large semicircular architrave. The entablature is supported by four pillars in Corinthian style. The second order has a central window, with two pillars on the sides. The lateral pinnacles are decorated with geometric figures carved in bas-relief. The third order is represented by a bell-gable consisting of three arched niches surmounted by pinnacles. Inside, the church has a single nave decorated with fine polychrome stuccoes and frescoed geometric and floral figures. On both sides of the nave, there are splendid Baroque altars containing beautiful works of art, including 18th-century paintings. The most beautiful part of the church is undoubtedly the presbytery, with the Read more [...]
The Church of San Domenico is a church in Noto, located in via Matteo Raeli, overlooking Piazza XVI Maggio, about 280 meters away from the Cathedral of San Nicolò. The church, dedicated to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order, is one of the most important and best preserved examples of Baroque architecture in Noto, and one of the most significant masterpieces of the late Baroque in the entire south-eastern Sicily. SHORT HISTORY The Church of San Domenico was built at the behest of the Dominican friars on a project by the architect Rosario Gagliardi, between 1703 and 1727. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade of the church has two orders, the lower one in Doric style, and the upper in Ionic style. The central part of the facade has a convex shape and protrudes towards the street. The interior, well preserved, is structured on an elongated Greek cross plan, with three naves and five domes richly decorated with stuccoes, and side altars in polychrome marble with 18th-century paintings, among which the Madonna del Rosario by Vito D’Anna stands out. The third altar on the left aisle has a Crucifix and various marble panels with scenes from the Read more [...]
The Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro is a Baroque church dedicated to Saint Lucia, the patron saint of Syracuse. Together with the nearby Church of Santa Lucia Extra Moenia and the Convent of the Franciscan Friars Minor, the Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro is part of the sanctuary built on the site where the Saint was martyred in 304, during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian. SHORT HISTORY The Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro was built in 1629 on a project by the architect Giovanni Vermexio, on the site of an ancient church dedicated to Saint Agatha. The works were interrupted when the Duke of Albuquerque considered that the building could represent, from a military point of view, the possible position for an artillery gun, in the event of a siege. The precise orders of the Duke determined the current layout of the church. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The church has the shape of an octagon, but only the four sides overlooking Piazza Santa Lucia have architectural decorations. The corners of the octagon are marked by counter-pillars crowned by Corinthian capitals enriched by exuberant decoration with shells and masks. A large double flight staircase gives access Read more [...]
The Church of Santa Lucia Extra Moenia is a church dedicated to Saint Lucia, the patron saint of Syracuse. It is called extra moenia due to its location outside the ancient city walls. Together with the nearby Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro and the Convent of the Franciscan Friars Minor, the Church of Santa Lucia Extra Moenia is part of the sanctuary built on the site where the Saint was martyred in 304, during the persecution of the emperor Diocletian. SHORT HISTORY The church was built around the year 1100 by the Normans. From that period, the facade, the portal with the characteristic capitals and the first two orders of the bell tower are preserved. Subsequent additions and rearrangements changed its appearance starting from the 14th century. Other interventions took place during the 17th century, most probably by Giovanni Vermexio, who also built the nearby Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro in 1629. In 1693, the earthquake of Val di Noto caused a lot of damage to the church, forcing necessary reconstruction interventions. Around the same time, the portico attributed to Pompeo Picherali and the last order of the bell tower were added. The portico collapsed in 1970, Read more [...]
The Church of San Giovanni Battista, popularly known as San Giovannello, is a church in Gothic style dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, located in Piazza del Precursore, on the island of Ortygia, in Syracuse. SHORT HISTORY The church was built in the 14th century on the remains of another early Christian church of the 4th century. Later, the church became a Jewish synagogue. After the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, the building was converted back into a Christian church and used as such until 1915. After the structure was used for a long time as a theater, auditorium and hall for conferences and performances, it was reopened for worship in 2015. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade of the church, dating back to 1380, has a beautiful 15th-century portal and a rose window. The roof of the building is completely absent. On the right of the facade, there is a bell-gable without any bells. The larger bell, from the 9th century, was melted during the First World War, and the second bell, smaller, cast at the beginning of the 20th century, was moved in 1920 to the nearby Church of Santa Maria della Concezione. The interior of Read more [...]
Palazzo Arezzo Della Targia is a palace situated in Piazza del Duomo, on the Ortygia island, in Syracuse. The palace is located across the square from the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, between Palazzo Beneventano Del Bosco, to the north, and the Palace of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of Syracuse, to the south. SHORT HISTORY Palazzo Arezzo Della Targia was built in the first half of the 18th century at the behest of the powerful Arezzo family, Barons of a fiefdom located in Targia (northern suburbs of Syracuse), with various other possessions scattered throughout the city (from Cassibile to Augusta). The palace was built after a design by the architect Luciano Alì. ARCHITECTURE The palace has a curvilinear shape, following the elliptical shape of Piazza del Duomo. The facade of the palace, on two levels, is divided in 9 sectors by ten pillars in Ionic style. The facade has four large portals, separated from each other by rectangular windows. On the second floor, there are nine balconies enclosed by railings. On the southern facade, there is another portal in Baroque style, flanked by two other balconies also enclosed in wrought iron. HOW Read more [...]
Quattro Fontane (Four Fountains) is a beautiful fountain in Taormina, located in Piazza Duomo, in front of the Cathedral of San Nicolò di Bari. SHORT HISTORY The fountain was built in 1635 by the Municipality of Taormina, and it became popularly known as Quattro Fontane from the four small columns placed on each corner of the monument, each with its own basin and surmounted by a seahorse from whose mouth the water flowed. Today, only one of the four seahorses is still functional. ARCHITECTURE The fountain has a central body formed by two basins. On the edge of the smaller one, there are four names engraved – Vincenzo Spuches, Vincenzo Cacopardo, Geronimo Mena and Cesare Onion. They are the representatives of the Municipality who ordered the construction of the fountain. In the center of the small basin, a pedestal supports a Centauress, with the crown on her head, who holds a scepter in her right hand and a globe with a cross in her left hand. HOW TO GET THERE Quattro Fontane is located in Piazza Duomo, about 700 meters away from Porta Messina, the main entrance to the historical center of the town, and about 110 Read more [...]
The Church of Sant’Agostino is a deconsecrated church in Taormina, located in Piazza IX Aprile, across the square from Torre dell’Orologio. SHORT HISTORY A first church, the Church of San Sebastiano, was built on this site in 1486, in Gothic style. On September 12, 1530, the church was given to the Order of Saint Augustine, and the Augustinians changed its dedication. As a result of the Royal decree of 1866 for the suppression of religious orders and congregations, the church and the adjacent convent were expropriated and acquired by the Municipality. The complex was used at first as an art gallery, and then as an elementary school. In 1933, the convent became a library, to house the book heritage of the former monasteries of Sant’Agostino, San Domenico and Sant’Antonio of Padua. The library has over 22,000 volumes, of which 2,000 are dedicated only to Sicily. The library collection consists mainly of treatises on theology, philosophy and sciences. In 1981, the entire complex was restored, and since 1985 it was used both as a library and as a multipurpose space for art exhibitions and cultural events. ARCHITECTURE From the ancient facade of the church, only the small rose window Read more [...]
Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) is a medieval tower and, at the same time, a city gate located in Piazza IX Aprile, in Taormina. Due to its location, about halfway between Porta Messina and Porta Catania, along Corso Umberto, the tower is also known as Torre di Mezzo (Middle Tower) or Porta di Mezzo (Middle Gate). The tower actually separates the medieval part of the town from the ancient Greco-Roman part of Taormina. SHORT HISTORY Torre di Mezzo was built in the 12th century on Greco-Roman foundations. In 1676, the tower was destroyed by the French troops of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Three years later, in 1679, the tower was rebuilt, and the clock was installed. From that moment on, the tower became known as Torre dell’Orologio. The bells of the tower ring on two occasions – on the election day of the town’s mayor, and on July 9, when the patron saint of Taormina, San Pancrazio, is celebrated. HOW TO GET THERE Torre dell’Orologio is located about 450 meters away from Porta Messina and about 350 meters from Porta Catania. Because the historical center of Taormina is entirely pedestrian, you can reach the tower only on foot.
The Church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria is a Baroque church located on Corso Umberto, in the historical center of Taormina, near Porta Messina. SHORT HISTORY The Order of Capuchin Friars arrived in Taormina towards the middle of the 16th century, and at the beginning of the 17th century, more precisely on April 27, 1610, bought the old Church of Santa Caterina, located outside the city walls. The new Church of Santa Caterina, located this time inside the city walls, was built in the first half of the 17th century on the ruins of a small Roman theater. During the 20th century, due to a precarious state, the Church of Santa Caterina was closed for about 40 years. The building was renovated and reopened for worship on November 25, 1977. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade of the church is delimited by two corner pilasters. The entrance, raised by five steps above street level, is characterized by a central portal in pink Taormina marble with two Ionic columns on high plinths, surmounted by Corinthian capitals. The architrave supports two curled lateral volutes, with small angels above. The niche between the angels houses the statue of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, depicted Read more [...]
The Church of San Antonio Abate is a small church in Taormina, located on the southern edge of the historical center of the town, near Porta Catania. SHORT HISTORY The Church of San Antonio Abate was built around the year 1330. After the bombing of 1943, during the Second World War, the church was almost completely destroyed, but it was immediately rebuilt with the stones recovered from the rubble. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The architectural style of the church can be defined as eclectic. On the facade, we can find Byzantine elements, Gothic influences are present in the construction of the portal – clearly visible in the pointed arch above the architrave, and also Baroque elements appear in the small bell-gable placed on top of the left corner of the facade. The portal, built in white limestone, is surmounted by a pointed arch, with a tympanum decorated with small arches. The facade also features two small windows placed on the sides of the portal, and a small stone cross at the top. The church has a single nave, with an arched niche on the left wall decorated with gray Taormina marble, while in the upper part it imitates a Read more [...]
The Church of San Michele Arcangelo is a small church in Taormina, dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, located about 140 meters away from the Cathedral of San Nicolò di Bari and Piazza Duomo. SHORT HISTORY The Church of San Michele was built in Baroque style at the beginning of the 17th century, close to the walls of Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano. The church was heavily damaged by the bombings of 1943, during the Second World War, and despite the subsequent restoration from the 1950s, it was reopened for worship only in 2011. ARCHITECTURE The best proof that the church was built in the 17th century is the Baroque portal on the facade. The beautiful portal has the jambs and the architrave in pink Taormina marble. Above the portal, there is a small rectangular window, surmounted by an iron cross at the top. A bell-gable with two bells is located on the left of the cross. The church have a single nave. The ceiling features exposed wood-beam trusses. Inside the church, there is a small crypt. HOW TO GET THERE The Church of San Michele Arcangelo is located about 850 meters from Porta Messina, the main Read more [...]
The Cathedral of San Nicolò di Bari is the Cathedral of Taormina (Duomo di Taormina). The church is located in Piazza Duomo, along Corso Umberto, near Porta Catania, in the historical center of Taormina. Due to the external fortification elements, the church is also known as the Cathedral Fortress. SHORT HISTORY The first cathedral of Taormina was the primitive Church of San Francesco di Paola. Starting with 962, during the muslim rule of the town, the Christian worship was prohibited, and following the Norman conquest of Taormina, in 1078, the town lost its bishopric. The construction of the current Cathedral, with the layout and characteristics of a fortress, dates back to the 13th century. The Cathedral was built in Sicilian Romanesque-Gothic style over the remains of a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra (also known as Nicolas of Bari). The Cathedral was partially rebuilt during the 15th century, and the Renaissance style portals were added at the beginning of the 16th century. The church was remodeled in the 17th century with the addition of the Baroque portal on the main facade, and the construction of the chapels in the side apses. Between 1945 and 1948, the Neapolitan architect Read more [...]
The Statue of San Corrado is a bronze sculpture depicting Saint Conrad of Piacenza, the patron saint of Noto, located in the eastern part of the city, in Piazzale Luigi Adorno. THE SAINT Corrado Confalonieri was born in 1290 in the town of Calendasco, now a municipality in the Province of Vicenza, and died while in prayer, kneeling before a crucifix, on February 19, 1351, in Netum (Noto Antica). At his request, he was buried at the Church of St. Nicholas. After the city was struck by earthquake in the 1690s, his body was transferred to the new church of the same name built in the relocated city, now called Noto. Pope Leo X beatified Conrad on July 12, 1515, and permitted the town of Noto to celebrate his feast day on February 19. On June 2, 1625, he was canonized by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, in a solemn ceremony held at the Cathedral of Piacenza. THE STATUE The statue of Saint Conrad of Piacenza, caught in the act of blessing the faithful, was inaugurated in 1955 on the occasion of the solemn patronal feast held every year on the last Sunday of August. The sculpture, about 2 meters Read more [...]
Villino Gallodoro is a hotel in Taormina, located about 100 meters from the cable car to the historical center of the town and about 600 meters from Isola Bella. The hotel is housed in a recently restored Mediterranean building, surrounded by greenery and with an enchanting view over the Mazzarò Bay and the surrounding coast. The hotel has 15 rooms featuring private bathrooms, TV and air conditioning. Some of the rooms offer a balcony with sea view. HOW TO GET THERE Villino Gallodoro is located about 2.8 kilometers from the Taormina-Giardini railway station.
Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is a 5-Star hotel in Taormina, located about 350 meters away from Isola Bella, right in front of the cable car to the historical center of the town. The elegant rooms and suites are decorated with refined fabrics and antique furniture. Most rooms come with a sea-view balcony. The restaurant Oliviero serves Sicilian cuisine and fresh seafood on its beautiful terrace with panoramic views of the Bay of Mazzarò. The hotel also features a private beach, an outdoor pool, kids club and wellness facilities. HOW TO GET THERE The Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is located about 2.5 kilometers from the Taormina-Giardini railway station. A private shuttle service can be arranged to and from the airport or the station. The hotel also organizes a free shuttle service to and from Taormina and free boat cruises along the coast during the summer months.
Grand Hotel San Pietro is a 5-Star hotel in Taormina, located about 15 minutes on foot from the historical center of the town. All the rooms are spacious and have a flat screen TV with satellite channels. The hotel offers free WiFi access and free parking, a 24 hours reception and a well-equipped gym. Grand Hotel San Pietro features an outdoor pool and a sun terrace overlooking the Ionian Sea. A buffet breakfast is offered daily and includes croissants, cold cuts, eggs and hot drinks. The Grand Hotel San Pietro offers both a traditional Sicilian restaurant, and a poolside snack bar. HOW TO GET THERE Grand Hotel San Pietro is located about 3.3 kilometers from the Taormina-Giardini railway station. A free shuttle service is provided to/from Taormina center.
Palazzo Speciale is a bed and breakfast in Catania, located about 300 meters from the beautiful Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral of Sant’Agata and about 250 meters from the Ursino Castle. The B&B offers accommodations with a patio or a balcony, free WiFi and flat-screen TV, as well as a shared lounge. Some units are air-conditioned and include a seating and/or dining area. Palazzo Speciale offers a continental or buffet breakfast. HOW TO GET THERE Palazzo Speciale is located about 1.5 kilometers from the Catania Centrale railway station. The closest bus stop is right in front of the B&B, in Via Plebiscito 6, on the bus Lines 431N and 503.
Palazzo Marletta is a boutique hotel in Catania, overlooking the beautiful Piazza del Duomo, a few steps from the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. All the rooms are air conditioned and include a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. The hotel offers a plentiful breakfast buffet. HOW TO GET THERE Palazzo Marletta is located about 1.4 kilometers away from the Catania Centrale railway station. The closest bus stop is in Via Vittorio Emanuele 192, about 100 meters away, on the bus Lines 830, 902 and 932.
Habitat is a modern boutique hotel in Catania, located in the historical center of the city, just a few steps from the Bellini Theater. Each room of the hotel features a flat-screen TV and air conditioning. The private bathroom also comes with a hairdryer, free toiletries and towels. The hotel has a garden, and free WiFi is available throughout the property. Other facilities include parking, 24 hours reception, relax lounge and concierge service to book cultural visits and excursions on Mount Etna and around Catania. HOW TO GET THERE Habitat Boutique Hotel is located about 1 kilometer from the Catania Centrale railway station. The closest bus stop is in Via Vittorio Emanuele 102, about 230 meters away, on the bus Lines 429, 431N, 439, 449, 530, 534, 536, 556, 628D, 925, 927 and 932.
The Church of San Nicolò l’Arena is a church in Catania, located in Piazza Dante Alighieri. The church, measuring 105 meters in length, about 71 meters in width in the transept area, with a maximum height of 66 meters at the dome, is the largest in Sicily. The first church erected by the Benedictines in Catania was entitled Sancti Nicolai de Arenis, after the Saint Nicholas of Bari and the red sandstone (rena rossa) of Nicolosi, a town in the province of Catania from which the monks arrived. SHORT HISTORY The grandiose Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena was founded on November 28, 1558. The church was inaugurated in 1578, in the presence of the viceroy of Sicily, Juan de la Cerda. In 1669, the structure was destroyed by the Etna eruption that struck the western side of the city. Starting with 1687, the church was rebuilt further south than the original site, on a project by the Roman architect Giovanni Battista Contini. In 1693, the works were interrupted by the violent earthquake of Val di Noto, and for the next thirty years the monastery remained without a main church. In 1730, the construction of the church was resumed, and Read more [...]
Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini is an opera house in Catania, named after the local-born composer Vincenzo Bellini. The theater is located in the square with the same name, about 350 meters from Piazza del Duomo and the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. SHORT HISTORY The construction of a public theater in Catania was proposed right after the earthquake of Val di Noto of 1693, which destroyed most of the cities in the area, but a foundation stone was laid only in 1812, over 100 years after the terrible event. In 1870, the architect Andrea Scala was given the task of finding a suitable site to build a new theater, and after examining the various options, it was decided for the Piazza Cutelli area. Despite the financial uncertainties, the project was approved, and Scala, with the assistance of the Milanese architect Carlo Sada, carried out the works. In 1880, the company financing the project ended up in liquidation, and was replaced by the Municipality, which decided to make some modifications to the structure of the theater. In 1887, the building was completed, but the inauguration took place only on May 31, 1890, with Norma, an opera by Vincenzo Bellini. ART AND Read more [...]
Fontana dell’Amenano is a beautiful fountain in Catania, located in the southern part of Piazza del Duomo, next to Palazzo del Seminario dei Chierici and the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. SHORT HISTORY The fountain was built in 1867 by the Neapolitan sculptor Tito Angelini. ARCHITECTURE The fountain consists of a large shell in white Carrara marble, in which stands the statue of the river Amenano, represented as a young man. The statue holds a cornucopia from which water flows into a convex basin. On each side of the statue, there is the sculpture of a triton. The shell rests on a base on which is placed the coat of arms of the city. On the opposite side of the fountain, we can find an emblem that contains the year in which the monument was inaugurated. From the basin of the fountain, the water pours into the underground river Amenano, located about two meters below the square level. Behind the fountain, a lava stone staircase leads to the Pescheria, the ancient city market of Catania. HOW TO GET THERE Fontana dell’Amenano is located about 1.4 kilometers from the Catania Centrale railway station. The closest bus stop is located right Read more [...]
Piazza del Duomo is the main square of Catania, located at the intersection of three important roads – Via Etnea, the historical axis of the city, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and Via Vittorio Emanuele II. ARCHITECTURE On the eastern side of the square, stands the Cathedral of Sant’Agata, Duomo di Catania, from which the square takes its name. The Cathedral was destroyed by the earthquake of 1693, and was rebuilt in the 18th century by the architect Girolamo Palazzotto, with the facade designed by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. In 1857, the bell tower of the Cathedral was completed, and the current layout of the churchyard appeared in the 19th century. To the south of the square, there is Palazzo del Seminario dei Chierici, a Baroque palace rebuilt after the earthquake of Val di Noto, in the first decades of the 18th century, by the architect Alonzo di Benedetto, and subsequently enlarged in 1757 by Francesco Battaglia. Between the Palace of the Seminary of the Clerics and the Cathedral of Sant’Agata, there is Porta Uzeda, which connects the two buildings mentioned above, beeing also the southern entrance to the square. The Uzeda Gate was named after the Spanish viceroy of Sicily Juan Read more [...]
Palazzo del Seminario dei Chierici (Palace of the Seminary of the Clerics) is a Baroque palace in Catania, located across the Piazza Duomo from the Palazzo degli Elefanti, near the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. SHORT HISTORY During the Aragonese period, on the site of the present palace, there was the ancient structure of the Bishop’s Palace. In 1572, the archbishop Antonio Faraone founded the seminary of the clerics, and some rooms of the palace were reserved for this institution. Beginning with 1614, Bonaventura Secusio, Bishop of Catania between 1609 and 1618, established the seminary headquarters in the building. On May 29, 1647, during the anti-Spanish revolt of Catania, the palace was severely damaged. In 1693, the building was completely destroyed by the earthquake of Val di Noto. In the first decades of the 18th century, the palace was rebuilt by the architect Alonzo di Benedetto, and subsequently enlarged in 1757 by Francesco Battaglia. In 1866, the architect Mario Di Stefano further expanded the structure, by building the second floor. Beginning with 1943, due to the Second World War, the seminarians left the building, which was later damaged by bombing. In 1944, the palace was acquired by the Municipality of Catania, Read more [...]
Palazzo degli Elefanti (Palace of the Elephants), formerly known as Palazzo del Senato, is a Baroque palace in Catania, located in Piazza Duomo, close to the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. The name of the palace derives from the numerous elephants carved on its facade. SHORT HISTORY During the Aragonese period, the palace, called Palazzo Senatorio, served as a municipal archive. The city representatives gathered in the palace and, sometimes, also the parliament assembled within its walls. Lope Ximénez de Urrea y de Bardaixi, Viceroy of Sicily between 1443 and 1475, ordered that all the official documents of the Kingdom and the various writings related to the Aragonese sovereigns to be collected and kept in the archives of the palace. After the earthquake of 1693, which destroyed almost completely the city of Catania, numerous architects participated in the reconstruction of the palace. The original project was carried out by Giovan Battista Longobardo, with the collaboration of Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, who built the east, south and west facades, and of Carmelo Battaglia, who designed the north facade. The grand staircase found in the inner courtyard of the palace was built in the 19th century by Stefano Ittar. On December 14, 1944, following Read more [...]
Basilica della Collegiata, also known as Basilica Maria Santissima dell’Elemosina, is a Baroque church in Catania, located along Via Etnea, a short distance from the Palace of the University. SHORT HISTORY In the early Christian centuries, a small church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built on the site of an ancient pagan temple dedicated to Proserpina. In the Byzantine era, the church was dedicated to Madonna dell’Elemosina. The church was rebuilt in the early 18th century, like most of the city of Catania, destroyed by the terrible earthquake of 1693. In 1896, Giuseppe Sciuti frescoed the vault and the dome of the church with various paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary, angels and saints. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The project of the church is attributed to Angelo Italia, an Italian architect who lived in the 17th century, who changed the orientation of the building, in order to have it facing Via Etnea. The facade, designed by Stefano Ittar, is a beautiful example of the Sicilian Baroque. The facade has two orders, with six stone columns on the first order, surmounted by a balustrade. On the second order, there is a central window and four large statues of Saint Read more [...]
The Church of San Placido is a church in Catania, located in the square of the same name, about 120 meters from the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. SHORT HISTORY The original structure of the church dates back to 1409, and was built on the ruins of an ancient pagan temple dedicated to Bacchus. The church was razed to the ground by the catastrophic earthquake of 1693, which almost completely destroyed the city of Catania. On the initiative of three nuns who escaped the ruins of the church, the reconstruction, entrusted to the architect Stefano Ittar, began shortly after the earthquake. The new church was consecrated in 1723 and completed in 1769. In 1976, the church was closed due to structural problems and, after about three years of consolidation, it was reopened for worship in 1979. ART AND ARCHITECTURE The facade of the church, in Sicilian Baroque style, is made of white Taormina stone. On each side of the portal, there are the statues of saints Placido and Benedetto, and above, on the second order, smaller, those of the saints Scolastica and Geltrude, work of the sculptor Carmelo Distefano. The facade, concave in the center, is enclosed by a convex Read more [...]
Palazzo San Giuliano is a beautiful palace in Catania, located across the University Square from the Palace of the University. The palace houses the administrative offices of the University of Catania. SHORT HISTORY The palace was built in 1738 by the architect Giovan Battista Vaccarini for the Paternò family, Marquise of San Giuliano. The seismic events that took place over time have not affected the 18th-century structure, but the transformations made during the 19th and 20th centuries changed more or less its internal and external appearance. The building was remodeled several times, but the facade remained almost intact from the moment of its construction. Only the balustrade that crowns the roof was added in 1930s, when the palace was the seat of Credito Italiano, one of the first Italian banks. In the early 20th century, the palace hosted the Machiavelli Theater, founded by Angelo Grasso. Around the same time, a part of the building was occupied by the Hotel Bristol. ARCHITECTURE The facade of the palace has a large portal that overlooks the University Square, flanked by two marble columns recovered, probably, from a Roman building. Above the portal, there is a double coat of arms – to Read more [...]