Situated in one of Sicily's most fertile areas between the Ionian sea and the slopes of mountain Etna, the city of Catania is outstanding for the rich production of citrus fruits, fruit, vegetable, and cereals. Cattle breeding, as well as sheep and goat farms, are outstanding because of the vast pasture areas. The handicraft activity is characterized by the local objects made with lava stone.
The name Catania derives from the Sicilian term Katane, that means "flaying knife, grater" because the city rises over a bristling lava stone land. The first inhabited center was founded in 729 B.C. by a Calcidesi colony, over a hill where the city's Acropolis was established. In 476 B.C. it was subjugated to Ierone, tyrant of Siracusa, and the inhabitants were confined in the nearby Leontini. In 461 B.C., the inhabitants of Catania reconquered their city. Approximately in 263 B.C., during the Roman era, the city grew thanks to the florid shipping business.
In 1071 A.D. it was conquered by the Normans, and in 1195, with the advent of the Swabian dynasty, it experienced a long period of decadence. Subsequently, it was ruled by the Aragonese dynasty; during this period, the first Sicilian University, called Siculorum Gymnasium", was founded. Between 1669 and 1693, the city was devastated by a lava eruption first, and by a terrible earthquake afterwards. The current inhabited center was rebuilt after 1693, thanks to the new urban project designed by the lieutenant and duke Giuseppe Lanza of Camastra.
The most outstanding monuments are the Chiesa di S. Nicolò and the annexed homonymous Benedictine Monastery (that today is the residence of the Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia- Faculty of Letters and Philosophy), both of the XVII century, the Chiesa di S. Giuliano erected in the XVIII century, symbol of Catania's baroque, the Chiesa di S. Maria di Gesù of the XV century preserving a marvelous table by De Chirico (1525), the Cathedral that goes back to 1078, that preserves various tombs of Aragonese kings, and the chapel of S. Agata, the city's patron saint. Architecturally outstanding are the Castello Ursino erected in 1239, today host of the Civico museum and of the Picture Gallery, the Belliniano museum set in the residence of Vincenzo Bellini, the Roman amphitheater of the Augustan era, and the home where the writer Giovanni Verga was born, currently seat of his personal museum.
An important seaside resort, Acicastello boasts a rich production of citrus fruits, olives, grapes, almonds, and cereals. Cattle breeding is flourishing because of the numerous pasture areas. The outstanding handicraft work includes wooden objects.
The name Acicastello derives from the homonymous Castle situated on a nearby hill of lava rock, built by the Normans in 1076. The first suburb was founded around the castle and was bestowed to the Bishops of Catania by the Norman Count Ruggero. Approximately in 1170, it was completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake, and was repopulated no sooner than 1530, as the nearby towns of Ficarazzi and Acitrezza were annexed. In 1647, it belonged to the noble Massa family, who owned it until the abolition of the feudal regime.
The most architecturally interesting monuments are the Chiesa Madre, preserving noteworthy frescoes by Pietro Vasta (1697-1760), and the Norman Castle, today dwelling of a Museum, built with lava rock from mountain Etna.
The origin of Acitrezza, currently fraction of Acicastello, goes back iwhen in the 1672 Stefano of the Riggio prince of the house of Campo Fiorito acquired the territory. In 1600 in fact, it was a zone nearly completely deserted where the inhabitants of the ancient Acireale worked linen and hemp to interlace them.
Perhaps from this fact derives the name “Trezza”, even if moltiple are the hypotheses on the origin of its name. Today all know Acitrezza, not only for the beauty of its landscapes, but also because the catanese writer Giovanni Verga has made it protagonist of its novel, “the Malavoglia”, describing the life of the fishermen and their families.