Friday, 21 September 2007

A city built on rock...or lava to be precise.

A few days ago when my bel ragazzo was in town we made a trip into the city of Catania.

"Catania is the second largest province in Sicily, with Palermo the capital being the first. Catania's history is full of transformation as the city had the misfortune of being partly destroyed 9 times. In 1669 Mt Etna erupted on an enormous scale and destroyed much of Catania. It killed about 12,000 people and the lava flowed out to sea for about 1km. You can see on either side of the autostrada the lava from this eruption and you can also see statues of Madonne at the top of old lava which generally signifies that there was once a church in its place."

Opps...sorry am in tour mode as this is what I tell the guests as they are on my bus from the airport every Saturday. However perhaps you too are interested to know some more. Let tour guide Leanne tell you about the next eruption:

"In 1693 an enormous earthquake reached the south eastern parts of Sicily, and Catania had to be rebuilt. This time the casualties were about 20,000 people and the city was rebuilt with the aim of minimising the damage should Etna erupt again. In fitting with the time they also rebuilt in Baroque style, but if you go into Catania you will see it is a very unique style, as they built using many of the black lava stones."

By this stage of my 'Welcome to Sicily' speech the customers are anxiously looking at Mount Etna, gently bellowing smoke in the distance and I can see from their nervous glances, and whispers that they want me to move onto brighter subjects.

My bel ragazzo and I were not put off by the previous wrath of Etna. We set off for a pleasant albeit hot day of site seeing. Here are some pictures of what we think is a beautiful city, however not everyone agrees. In parts it is pristine, and off the main streets it is in parts run down and in need to work. Because the majority of the city was rebuilt with the lava stone it gives Catania a dark, secretive feeling, which makes you want to get off the tourist track and delve deeper into the residential heart.

Does the photo of the castle above look strange at all? From this angle it is hard to see anything out of the ordinary, however the castle is on ground level. One would imagine that all castles are built on hill tops, with a perfect vantage point to spot incoming attacks? The odd thing about this castle is that it is built on ground level...Che pazzo! I hear you say. Yes. However it is not a crazy design, it did not use to be this way. Look closely at the photo again and maybe you can see big black lava stones by the base of the castle. Yes. You guessed it. This castle used to be on a hill top and that darn Etna came and covered everything in her path, covering the villages below which makes today's city on level with the once elevated castle.



Customers made a complaint about a tour they took the other day. When concierge Leanne asked what the problem was they replied that:

There was a man on the bus who appeared drunk.

Leanne was worried thinking this was the complaint.

No, was the answer. They were complaining as the bus had to stop so that the apparently drunk man could get out to use the bathroom. you see why concierge Leanne is confused. Where is the problem here. One would think that if the bus stops to let someone (drunk or not) stop to use the bathroom then this is surely a good thing...


Delina said...

The people who built the castle must have been annoyed when it was on a hill, then er, wasn't on a hill anymore.

Domina said...

Ciao Leanne,

I'm from Perth - which I kinda always have to explain is nowhere near Melbourne or Sydney to my Italian penpals!

Your blog is really a lot of fun and I love how you mix your thoughts and the nuances of everyday Italian life in your entries. I hope (and I'm being purely selfish here) you blog for a long time to come. :)

Getting back to your post, thanks for the pictures. I am also like you, I enjoy getting off the beaten tourist track and making my own way around places - I find you get to really know a place more that way. When I visited Rome, the day I enjoyed the most was when I ignored the tourist map I was given and just 'discovered' the streets on my own.


Leanne said...

Hi Delina,
yes I would imagine the king of the castel was not to pleased when it was not so imposing and high up anymore!

Hi Liz,
So you are a Perth gal...never made it that far to be honest. I have heard though that the best looking Aussie men are in Perth (or maybe that was a guy from Perth who told me that...I can't remember who told me but someone did.) On my next trip back to AUS I'll have to discover some more of my own country :)