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Situated on the Gulf of Catania, the town spreads tidily over the foot of the southern slopes of Etna, as well as to the south on the low-lying fertile Catania plain, where the modern industrial zone has been sited. Founded by the Chalcidians in the 8th century BC., it quickly attained a position of importance in Sicily, often warring with Syracuse. It was taken by the Romans in 263 and experienced periods of great prosperity under the Empire. After the fall of the Western Empire, it was dominated by the Goths, and in 552 passed together with the whole island to Byzantium, who held it until the 9th century, when Sicily was conquered by the Arabs. The Normans took possession in 1072 and its fortunes were those of the Kingdom of Sicily until unification with Italy in 1860. Catania was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt several years later to an orderly layout on late Baroque lines.

The town has an interesting heritage of monuments and works of art, though few of the ancient buildings still retain their original forms: Ursino Castle, built by Frederick II (13th century), with its characteristic round towers, the Duomo (11th-12th century, rebuilt in the 18th century, fine chapel of S. Agata), the church of S. Maria del Gesù (15th century, Gothic, rebuilt), the Greek theatre (rebuilt in Roman times) and the Odeon, the remains of a Roman amphitheatre (2nd century BC.). Other interesting buildings include the church of S. Nicolò (18th century) with a rich interior, the Collegiate church (18th century), Palazzo Biscari, a fine example of Baroque, the Fontana dell'Elefante (1736) and many other 17th century churches and other buildings.



The name Aci Castello derives from the Castle, built by the Normans in 1076, situated on a nearby hill of lava rock. The first suburb was founded around the castle and was bestowed to the Bishops of Catania by the Norman Count Ruggero. In 1170, it was completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake. In 1647, it belonged to the noble Massa family. Of interest is the Norman Castle.
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Acitrezza is a small fishing village close to Acicastello, described in Giovanni Verga's novel "I Malavoglia". It is also renowned for its "Faraglioni", large lava rocks in the sea facing the coast and the Isola Lachea. Before its foundation in the 17th century, there was an ancient posada where the travellers had some sleep. The name of Acitrezza would derive from " latruzza " that comes from the owner of the posada who, in the middle of the night, stole her customers who slept there.
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Acireale was probably founded in the mid-14th century by inhabitants of the coastal area to be safe from pirate raids. During the Roman period, the suburb was called Aquilia. Destroyed by 1169's earthquake and then rebuilt, in 1326, because of an incursion by will of King Roberto of Napoli, and the subsequent disastrous fire, the inhabitants found shelter on a nearby hill, where they founded the current inhabited center. The name Acireale was given to the town by Philip IV, King of Spain and Sicily, who made it a direct royal domain in 1642,. After the earthquake in 1693, the city was rebuilt. The town developed considerably in the first decades of the 20th century and has rapidly expanded. Acireale is also a thermal town and it is famous for its Carnival, one of the finest in Sicily. It is also one of the most important centers for the puppet theater. Of interest is the Roman-Gothic Duomo, of the XIV century, the Chapel of S. Venera, the Basilica dei SS. Pietro e Paolo dated 1600 and the XVII century Chiesa di S. Sebastiano, with a typical baroque façade. Also interesting is Palazzo Modò, the municipio (1659), the Zelantea Library and Art Gallery.
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Situated on the western slopes of Etna in the high valley of Simeto River, Bronte was one of 24 hamlets in the area during the Middle Ages and it belonged to the Benedictine Monastery at Maniace. In 1520, Charles V united the hamlets and founded the town of Bronte, which was destroyed by the eruptions of 1651, 1832, 1843. In 1799 Ferdinand III gave it to Horatio Nelson for restoring him to the throne of Naples. Of interest is the Castle of Maniace and the Collegio Capizzi (1774-79), a monumental palace.
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The town developed around the Castle erected near the Alcàntara river, probably Arab in origin because the name of the town derives from the Arab "Qalat-Bian", that means Castello di Biano. It was an important strategic position dominating the valleys. The castle was altered by the Normans, Swabians, and others. Of interest is also the church of San Filippo Siriaco (1484), the church of Maria SS. Annunziata and the church of S. Giuseppe.
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The name derives from the Arab "Qalat-Jerun", that means "Castle of the burial grounds" because of the presence of vast necropolises in the area dated from the 2nd millennium BC. The first inhabited center rose in the surroundings of a castle during the Greek era. In 1030, it was conquered by a colony of Ligurians headed by the Byzantine general Giorgio Maniace. In 1090, Count Ruggero D'Altavilla took possession of the suburb and christianized it. During 1458, a Parliament was assembled and it nominated Giovanni d'Aragona prince of Caltagirone and King of the Reign of Sicily. The earthquakes of 1542 and 1693 completely destroyed the town, and the new rebuilt center followed the baroque style thanks to the interventions of several architects such as Rosario Gagliardi (1682-1762), Francesco Battaglia (1701-1778) and Natale Bonaiuto (XVIII century). The most interesting monuments are the Norman Duomo preserving beautiful paintings by Francesco Vaccaro (1802-1882), the Chiesa del Collegio erected by the Jesuits in 1593, and the Chiesa di S. Giacomo reconstructed after 1693's earthquake. Very relevant are also the Chiesa di S. Maria del Monte with its staircase rich of polychrome majolica, the Corte Capitaniale preserving noteworthy windows and portals by the artist Gagini (1478-1536), and the Chiesa di S. Nicola dated 1700. Very important is the Regional Museum of Ceramics.
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Situated over a rocky hill dominating the valley of the Alcàntara river, Castiglione di Sicilia is outstanding for its rich production of wine grapes, vegetables, citrus fruits, and excellent olive oil. The first inhabited center was founded in 496 B.C. and was a possession of Ippocrate, tyrant of Gela. During the Arab era, the town was transformed into a fortress, and it became Royal City under the Norman and Swabian dynasties. In 1283, it became feud of lord Ruggero di Lauria, and afterwards of nobleman Bartolomeo Gioieni, to whom it belonged to until 1655, when the feudal regime was abolished. Of interest is the 17th century Mother Church, the Byzantine Chiesa di Santa Domenica and the Chiesa di S. Antonio Abate. Also interesting the Norman Castle Leone and the remains of a majestic Arab bridge, testifying some Middle Age elements.
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The Chalcidian colony of Callipoli (7th cent. BC) was probably in this area. Its name is thought to derive from "giare" (jars) which contained the tithes paid to the Bishop of Catania. The most interesting monuments are the neo-classic Duomo, erected in 1794 and the Chapel dedicated to S. Lucia.
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The town dates back to the ancient Sicel town of Echetla, later Hellenized. Nearby is an necropolis dated to the 6th century BC. The township of Occhiola was developed in the Middle Ages and destroyed by the earthquake of 1693. Prince Carlo Maria Carafa Branciforte di Butera rebuilt the town, giving it its present name. The town has a spider's web layout, with a perfect geometric design off a hexagonal center. Of interest is the Mother Church dedicated to S. Michele, erected between 1724 and 1757, and the Town Hall's, artwork of architect Carlo Sada towards the end of 1800.
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The first inhabited center rose in 1145 and it belonged to the noble families Crisafi, Cottone, and Patti. Afterwards, it became a possession of the Bonanno family until 1634, after it was part of the royal domain. The name of the town is probably derived from lingua grossa ("great tongue"), which refers to a lava stream formed after the eruption of the volcano in 1634, and also corresponds to the elongated distribution of the town. Of interest is the Mother Church erected in 1613, the Chiesa di S. Egidio, the Chiesa dei SS. Vito e Antonio of the 17th century and the nearby Linguaglossa Wood. Also nearby are skiing facilities.
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Situated over a fertile valley crossed by the Simeto river, the village developed around Maniace Abbey, built in 1173 by Queen Margaret of Navarre, mother of William the Good, on the spot where the Byzantine general George Maniakes defeated the Muslims in 1040. In 1799 the fief and the abbey (also known as the Castle) were given by Ferdinand III of Sicily to Admiral Nelson for his help in repressing the riots in Naples.
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The town was founded in 214 B.C. by the Romans, as a military fort to prepare the siege of Siracusa. It might have started as a Byzantine hamlet, expanded under Arab rule and in the feudal period, first belonging to the Barresi family and after 1567 to the Brancifortes, who took the title of "Marquis". It was seriously damaged in the earthquake of 1693 and immediately rebuilt on the same site. The most interesting monuments are the Chiesa di S. Benedetto Abate of 1616, and its bordering Monastery, the Mother Church, the Museum of S. Nicolò, beholding numerous artworks and sacred furniture of the 16th century.
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A charming mountain center, Nicolosi developed around the Benedectine monastery of San Nicola, founded in the 12th century. Many eruptions of Etna have destroyed the town, as in 1689 and 1693. In 1886, the lava stopped just in from of the veil of St. Agata, held by the Archbishop of Catania. Of interest is the Mother Church of 1700, the Chiesa di S. Giuseppe, the Chiesa della Madonna del Carmine. Also important is Palazzetto Rapisardi (18th cent.) and Palazzo Cirelli.
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Randazzo is situated over an intermediate area between the Alcàntara and Simeto rivers. The town was founded in Byzantine times in a territory already settled by the Sicels, and it became important in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was the main stronghold of Peter of Aragon during the War of the Sicilian Vespers, and in 1305, Frederick II of Aragon chose it as his summer residence. It was populated in waves of Greek, Roman, and Lombard immigrants, who until the 16th century spoke three distinct dialects and (until 1916) had three separate cathedrals (each in its own quarter of the town). Of interest is the the Chiesa di S. Maria built between 1217 and 1239, the 1583's Chiesa di S. Nicolò, the Museo Vagliasindi, the 13th century Porta Aragonese, the Palazzo Scala, the Palazzo Finocchiaro and the Palazzo Lanza.
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Originally a rural village in the Mascali fief, then a ward of Giarre. Of interest is the Mother Church, the Chiesa del Calvario and the Chiesa Nagazzeni. Very interesting is also the famous Castagno dei Cento Cavalli (Chestnut Tree of the Hundred Horses) which has a circumferance of 52 meters. The legend states that it provided shelter from a sudden rainstorm one night for Queen Joan I of Anjou and her following of knights.
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The town was originally at the crossroads of a number of important routes in the Etna area, leading variously to Pedara, Nicolosi, and Viagrande. The town name possibly is for "tre castagni" (three chestnut trees) and is a reference to the town's three patron saints (Alfio, Filadelfio, and Cirino). After belonging to Catania for many years, it was owned by the Di Giovanni family in 1649 and to the Alliatas in the 18th century. Of interest is the Mother Church, the Church della Madonna della Misericordia, the Chiesa di S. Antonio and the Sanctuary of the three Martyr Saints.
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The Roman town of Bidis (from the Greek-Byzantine Bizion), was here, in a territory inhabited since prehistoric times. The modern town developed in the Middle Ages around a castle (no longer existent), as a fief of various lords, including the Chiaromontes and the Schittinos, although for many years it was also part of the royal domain. Of interest is the Mother Church, the Chiesa dei Cappuccini, Palazzo di Citta (19th cent.), the Palazzo Cafici and the 18th c. Palazzo of the Verga family (The events and the characters of Verga's "Cavalleria Rusticana" all refer to Vizzini).
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The town spread around the Priory of San Giacomo, founded in 1387 in the upper part of the Valle del Bove, the point of confluence of the lava streams from Etna's Eastern craters. Frequently destroyed by eruptions, it has always been rebuilt. Of interest is the Mother Church, the Chiesa Madonna delle Grazie and the baronial Pappalardo Palace.
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