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For all the noise, chaos and scruffiness that hit the visitor at first glance, Catania has a strong magnetic pull. This is Sicily at its most youthful, a city packed with cool and gritty bars, abundant energy and an earthy spirit in sharp contrast to Palermo’s aristocratic airs.
Catania’s historic core is a Unesco-listed wonder, where black-and-white palazzi tower over sweeping baroque piazzas. One minute you’re scanning the skyline from a dizzying dome, the next perusing contemporary art in an 18th-century convent. Beneath it all are the ancient ruins of a town with over 2700 candles on its birthday cake. Indeed, food is another local forte. This is the home of Sicily’s iconic pasta alla Norma and the extraordinary La Pescheria market.
Keeping an eye on it all is Catania’s skyscraping frenemy, Mt Etna, a powerful presence that adds another layer of intensity and beauty to Sicily’s second-biggest city.