How to get to Catania

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Founded by the Siculi and colonized by Chalcidians (a Greek people) from Naxos in 729 BC, Catania was conquered by the Romans in AD 263, eventually becoming the most prosperous city in Roman Sicily. However, archeological evidence indicates man's presence in the area during the early Bronze Age (2200-1400 BC). By the Middle Ages, it was still an important port, though less prominent than Messina. It flourished until 1169, when it was almost completely destroyed by a particularly violent earthquake. Following this catastrophe, Catania was gradually rebuilt.

The city has two Roman amphitheaters. The smaller one, off Via Vittorio Emanuele near Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi, was built upon an earlier Greek theater and is open to the public. It is said to have accommodated as many as 6,000 spectators. The nearby Odeum, a much smaller theatre, could hold about 1,300. A larger amphitheatre, closer to the commercial center in Piazza Stesicoro at the intersection of Via Etnea and Corso Sicilia, is a completely Roman structure built in the second century AD. The piazza, incidentally, is named for Stesichorus, a Greek poet who lived in Catania during the sixth century BC. Now located below ground level and usually closed, this vast complex probably seated about 14,000 spectators. Only a small part of is actually visible today. With its vast underground network of passages and alcoves, it is reminiscent of the Roman Colosseum.

If you're shopping for souvenirs, Taormina might be a better choice than Catania as it has a large number of shops concentrated on a few streets, though Catania offers Via Etnea. The city has a number of restaurants but they're not easy to find. Catania is certainly worth seeing --at least for a brief visit. The two large street markets are particularly interesting, and the churches and palaces have a distinctly Baroque aura.

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How to get to Catania

Catania is a good point for making connections to other places if you're traveling by train or bus. Buses for Etna, the airport, Palermo and various nearby towns depart from the piazzas near the train station (there are several different bus lines with offices off the main square). Fontanarossa Airport is only about 20 minutes from Catania. There are fairly frequent train departures for Taormina, Syracuse, Messina and the mainland.

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