Palazzo degli Elefanti (Palace of the Elephants), formerly known as Palazzo del Senato, is a Baroque palace in Catania, located in the Piazza Duomo, close to the Cathedral of Sant’Agata. The name of the palace derives from the numerous elephants carved on its facade.
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 that can be found in the inner courtyard of the palace was built in the 19th century by Stefano Ittar.
On December 14, 1944, following popular unrest, the palace was set on fire. After the event, the interior was again furnished in the original style, and the palace was reopened on December 14, 1952. Starting with 1953, the palace hosted the city’s Town Hall.
The palace has a rectangular plan, with an inner courtyard, and three floors. The southern facade is divided by pilasters with diamond ashlars at the base, with windows decorated with arched tympanums on the ground floor, windows with balconies and triangular tympanums on the second floor, and simple windows with balustrade on the third floor.
The main portal of the palace is framed by pairs of twin columns in granite, placed on high plinths, which support the large central balcony, surmounted by the coat of arms of the city of Catania and the statues of Justice and Faith.
HOW TO GET THERE
Palazzo degli Elefanti is located about 1.3 kilometers away from the Catania Centrale railway station. The closest bus station, located a few meters away, is in Via Vittorio Emanuele 192, on the bus Lines 830, 902 and 932.