Catania is an Italian town of 294 870 inhabitants, the capital of the metropolitan city of Catania in Sicily. Heart of an urban agglomeration of about 700 000 residents extended to the south-eastern slopes of Mount Etna, it is the center of the most densely populated metropolitan area of ​​Sicily, and of a larger conurbation known as the linear system of eastern Sicily, which has about 1 693 173 inhabitants on an area of ​​2 400 square kilometers. The city is also the economic and infrastructural hub of the South-East Sicily District, established on February 26, 2014 in the presence of the then President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano. Main industrial, logistic and commercial center of Sicily, it is the seat of Vincenzo Bellini Airport.

Founded in 729 BC from the Calcidesi of nearby Naxos, the city boasts a thousand-year history characterized by various dominations whose remains enrich its artistic, architectural and cultural heritage. Under the Aragonese dynasty it was the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily, and since 1434 at the behest of King Alfonso V is the seat of the oldest university on the island. In the course of its history it has been affected several times by volcanic eruptions (the most impressive, in historical times, is that of 1669) and by earthquakes (the most catastrophic mentioned were those of 1169 and 1693).

The baroque of its historic center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, together with that of seven municipalities of the Val di Noto (Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli), in 2002 .



Catania offers heterogeneous landscapes concentrated in a small area. It rises on the eastern coast of the island, at the foot of Etna (the highest active volcano in Europe) about halfway between the cities of Messina and Syracuse, overlooking the Ionian Sea with the gulf that takes its name from it.

The territory is purely flat to the south and south-east, and mountainous to the north due to the presence of Etna. It also includes a substantial part of the plain of Catania ('a Chiana), one of the largest cultivated areas in Sicily, whose area closest to the sea is the Oasi del Simeto, a nature reserve of about 2,000 hectares, established in 1984. The Simeto Oasis takes its name from the Simeto river which flows south of the city, in the Primosole hamlet.

The original nucleus of the city was located on a hill: the hill of Monte Vergine (49 m asl), born from a prehistoric eruption of Etna dated between 15,000 and 3960 ± 60 years from the present, corresponding to today's Piazza Dante Alighieri where the monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena (now a university seat) stands, near which flowed a stream, the Amenano, which flowed near the current Piazza del Duomo, while to the south there was the terrace of Acquicella (15 m asl), separated from the river by a valley, then filled by the lava of the 1669 eruption. The only other important point is the hill of Santa Sofia (303 m asl), in the district of the same name, where the University Citadel stands. , almost on the border with Gravina di Catania, a town in the vast hinterland.

Public green is made up of parks located within the city. There are six of a certain size and importance: the Bellini Garden or Villa Bellini, called 'a Villa, is dedicated to the musician Vincenzo Bellini; the Pacini Garden or Villa Pacini, nicknamed Villa 'e varagghi (ie "of the yawns") dedicated to the musician Giovanni Pacini; the Gioeni Park (located north of the Borgo district, at the end of Via Etnea); the Falcone e Borsellino Park (north of Corso Italia), dedicated to the homonymous magistrates killed by the mafia; and the Boschetto della Plaia (in the area between the south of the city and Vincenzo Bellini airport, the former Municipal Fruit and Vegetable Market and the Plaia district). Among others, for its historical importance and for the conservation of biodiversity, the botanical garden of Catania in the Mercede district should be mentioned.

The city is crossed by an underground river, the aforementioned Amenano, which in ancient times flowed where today there is the aforementioned Villa Pacini and now flows further south-east, where there is the port. It is visible at the Amenano Fountain, a white marble fountain called by the people of Catania the Acqua a 'llinzolu which rises between the so-called "Pescheria" and the Piazza del Duomo, and in the basement of the local Agorà Hostel. In the past, just outside the walls to the west, you could find Lake Nicito, connected to the river and now covered by the lava flow of 1669 (the homonymous street recalls its location).

But it was all the surrounding area that changed profoundly as a result of natural disasters such as the various lava flows: the coast north of the port consists of a cliff, located where today the Central Station is present, known as the Armìsi and formed in various historical periods in 1169, 1329 and 1381, the year in which part of the ancient Porto Ulisse in the Ognina district was also covered; this stretch of coast includes the small beach of San Giovanni li Cuti. The area south of the Ursino Castle, once on the sea, is instead the product of the enormous flow of 1669 which, encircling it, went for a few kilometers towards the gulf. The coast south of the port was profoundly modified, starting the sandy coast of Plaia further south.



The city and the plain of Catania have a Mediterranean climate, albeit with some subtropical and continental features, clearly recognizable from the analysis of the climatic data of the official meteorological stations of Fontanarossa and Sigonella, which respectively describe the picture relating to the city of Catania and to the hinterland of the plain.

Precipitation averages between 450 and 550 mm per year, with a very marked summer minimum and moderate peak in the autumn season.


Winter generally ensures fairly mild temperatures, but the temperature range compared to night hours is quite pronounced, especially in the presence of clear skies and weak winds, due to the presence of an extensive flat territory to the south, and in the innermost part, of the presence of Etna. Snow is very rare, due to the orographic shadow of Etna which shelters the city from the cold northern winds. Despite this, occasional flocks have been seen several times over the years in the hilly neighborhoods, more consistent in the hinterland north of the city. More recently, short snowfalls occurred on 9 February 2015, 6 January 2017 and 5 January 2019, although the last snowfall with a particularly significant accumulation dates back to 16-17 December 1988.

The absolute record of cold, -7 ° C, was reached on February 1, 1962.

The long-lasting summer is very hot, sometimes with high humidity. While along the coastal strip the maximum temperatures are partially contained by the eastern sea breeze, very high values ​​are recorded in the innermost part of the city and the plain.


Etymology and variations of the name

According to the Greek historian Plutarch, its name derives from the Sicilian katane (i.e. grater, a word of Indo-European origin), for the association with the roughness of the lava territory on which it stands, or also from the Latin catinum (basin, basin) for its natural conformation as a basin of the hills around the city or as a reference to the Piana basin. The etymology remains however obscure: according to other interpretations, the name derives from the apposition of the Greek prefix katà- to the name of the volcano Etna (Aitnè, from the Greek) (so that it results "near" or "resting" on the Etna). In the Arab era, the geographer Al-Muqaddasi specifies that the city of Qatāniya "It is also called Madīnat al-Fīl (City of the Elephant)" and Idrisi reports it as Balad al-fîl, of similar meaning.

In the sixteenth century the city of Catania was nicknamed "the Sicula Athens" perhaps due to the assonance with the Greek name katane (kai Athena). Other notable nicknames are those of "the protector of the Kings" referring to the period 1282-1412 in which the city was the capital of the island or more recently of "Southern Milan" in relation to the great economic boom it had in the 1960s.