June 14 Catania (Day 261)

Today’s adventure is an hour long train ride to Catania, ‘Second City’ of Sicily, to explore this town shaped by Mt. Etna.

The largest town nearest the volcano, Catania has been settled since 800B.C.! We exited the train after passing through an industrial area. This is the best view of Mt. Etna we had all day!

We started walking along the waterfront with take-away coffees, then meandering our way down narrow streets towards the Piazza Duomo, the central square of the old town with the main cathedral.

We knew we were getting closer when we passed this storefront. Is it where priests purchase their vestments? Is it a museum of priestly attire? We don’t know, it was closed.

Around the corner we found the church.

Ensconced in a side altar is the body of Cardinal Dusmet. Kind of creepy!

“In this altar you can find the remains of Blessed Cardinal Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet… He was elected Archbishop of the city in 1867, then he was appointed Cardinal in 1888. He died in 1894 and from 1988, the year of his beatification, the body lies in this altar, exposed to the veneration of the devotees… He is also linked to the last famous miracle of the Veil of Saint Agatha, a relic that has always been considered by the people of Catania as a bulwark against the various natural calamities that have hit the city over the centuries: it was 1886 when Cardinal Dusmet ordered to carry the Veil in procession as a terrible eruption of Mount Etna was threatening the town. The Veil was carried in procession up to Nicolosi, a town that extends on the southern flank of Etna, and after days of prayer the lava front stopped.”

We continued our walk to the nearby Fish Peddlers Market, an open air fish and vegetable market near the square.

The bustle, the sounds, the smells! Unfortunately, it was too early to have fresh fish lunch!

Meandering around the old town took us past numerous churches, several closed permanently, many old ornate stone buildings, even ancient stone walls and towers! We came to a square with traffic flowing around the edges and an ancient Greek/Roman amphitheater, built of lava rock (being readily available from the many eruptions of Mt. Etna!) enclosed in the center.

Flanking one edge of the square (on the left) is the “Church of the Furnace”, supposedly the site of the martyrdom of St. Agatha, a 15 year old Christian in the 3rd century A.D. who was violently tortured on the rack, mutilated and burned for spurning the advances of a Roman Governor and keeping her vow of Christian celibacy. She is the patron saint of many places, especially Catania, also patron saint of burn victims, breast cancer patients, and rape victims.

A broad avenue from this site led us back to the Piazza del Duomo where we found a restaurant for lunch and a few more architectural gems.

This elephant statue and fountain face the cathedral across the square.

The cathedral, now closed for the day, with the huge bronze doors shuttered.

We made our way back to the train station and got back to Letojanni in time to freshen up and enjoy our last dinner in town!

Octopus salad and mussels with spaghetti!

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