Friday, January 27, 2017

Sources of inspiration: Catania // A culinary trip through Sicilian cuisine // 5 reasons to visit this ancient Italian city by the water

Every year I try do visit some places I haven’t been before. When my friend surprised me with plane tickets for my birthday we decided to book the first destination on the list of destinations we hadn’t heard about before. Catania it was. Luckily after booking those tickets we figured out Catania was a small city in the south of Sicily, Italy.

I have a soft spot for Italy. The food is crazy delicious. The wine is smooth. The people speak all sexy Italian. Yes please! Enough ingredients for me to have an awesome time! Catania is a pretty small place, mostly visited during the summer season when Italians come out of their homes and roam the street. But it can be a pretty nice destination during the winter too. With the beautiful view of a snow covered Etna. And the streets are not packed with tourists and souvenir stands.

1 // Outdoors
Catania is located on the foot of the Etna Volcano and is a perfect location for hiking in both winter and summer. You can see the white powdered curves all the way from Catania’s city center and there are organized trekkings and tours going up the volcano every day. If you are not very outdoorsy you can rent a little FIAT500 and experience the countryside in a more Italian way, do some wine tasting for instance. If you are a garden lover go check out Catania’s Orto Botanical Garden and enjoy the peace and quiet after a busy day in the city. Villa Bellina park is located in the heart of the city from which you have a great view over Catania if you don’t feel like driving out of the city you can enjoy some green time, watch the sunset and get some romance on from here.

2 // Wine and Dine
Of course a visit to Italy is mainly about drinks and food. And as a red wine lover Italy is a pretty yummy destination. Sicily has some great wines and Catania has some fun wine bars to chill after a busy day exploring the city. But the food. The food, yes, let’s talk about the food. Just talking about dinner only would be crazy. Let’s talk about food in general. Sicily is famous for it’s awesome cuisine and we sure ate a lot during out trip. Catania is famous for it’s street food. Start your day in a local coffee shop with a coffee and some dolce, canoli, some ice cream, yes they eat ice-cream in the morning, or some other baked goods. Italians eat lot’s of sugary things all day every day, nothing savory before noon, I am more a savory kind of person though. But there is enough fresh savory stuff too. Try the arancini, traditional Sicilian rice balls made with risotto rice and filled with anything delicious: spinach, cheese or pistachio. I loved those things! Seriously good stuff. Don’t leave the country without trying one of thses. And then, of course, dinner. The pizza, gnocci, caponata, piadineria, cunzatizzi, you name it. I love Italian food, it is all fresh & seasonal. For foodies Italy is heaven, all regions in Italy have their own specialities so make time to try as much food as possible! Some fun places to eat in the heart of Catania: Razmataz with simple local food, changes their menu every day. Fud, for the hipster foodie peeps. Buatta: Best food I have had during my trip. Try the typical pizza bread here. So delicious!

3 // Culture
Catania is not a very big city but it is the second largest city of Sicily and they recently opened a new contemporary art museum in the city center: MacS. A small gem that offers a small exhibition of modern art made by local, national and international artists. I was surprised by their rich and diverse collection. They even had a Lita Cabellut up there. But Catania has some more artsy places to check out. Just walk around the South side of the cathedral and check out the street art around the food market. When you walk around the city you are very likely to stumble upon some awesome street art. We found some lovely gems shown here. Check out the harbor and take a look at the Art Silos where 50’s industry has been turned into a wonderful colorful canvas for local and international (street) artists.

4 // Majestic Architecture
Catania may seem a little rough on the edges but it is a majestic city like so many in Italy. During the renaissance period Catania was one of Italy’s most important cultural and political cities. The old architecture takes you back to a wealthy era full of roman influences. The overly decorated cathedral, the amphitheater, the opera theater all detailed with marble extravagance are remains of this cultural importance of this ancient port city. The city center of Catania is simply beautiful. Take some time to walk around the Piazza del Duomo en don’t forget to check the crazy elephant obelisk while you’re there. There are many stories about the elephant and the city of Sicily. The elephant might be a symbol of protection against the Etna Volcano, and the story goes the elephant has magical powers, it was the only thing remaining after the catastrophic earthquake in 1696. Made out of lava stone this elephant obelisk is the symbol of the city and you can find this non-Italian animal everywhere. It is funny, but I like elephants, and Italy so hell, it is a good combo.

5 // City by the Sea
Catania has a wonderful Mediterranean climate. The winters are easy and the summers are deliciously hot. I love hot! If you are a little bit of a water rat like me and love to be on the water this is a great place from where you can explore the Ionian and Mediterranean sea by boat. Especially during summer this area is amazing to explore from the water. The city is very much influenced by the sea. if you are not interested in a trip over water go visit La Pescheria, the fish market and go taste some seafood, there is a large variety of interesting fish on Catania’s restaurant menu’s.