I went back this weekend to the gritty, vibrant, gorgeous city of Catania, Sicily for another story on migrants. After a week of feeling despondent about the bitterness of the US elections, it was a thrill go back and breathe in the city’s energy. Catania has been conquered and ruled by Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Normans and the Spanish. It has been devastated by earthquakes and covered in volcanic ash from nearby Mount Etna but nothing seems to faze the plucky, gregarious Catanesi. In more recent times they’ve opened their ports to tens of thousands of migrants arriving from Africa. The Catanesi are friendly, funny and fatalistic about life.
Here are a few photos from my trip.
Most of the city’s buildings are classic baroque style with exaggerated florid details such as the funny looking masks on a grime-covered balcony.
Saturday morning I took a walk around the city and as I headed into the Piazza Del Duomo with its famed elephant fountain I could hear the yelling from the famous “La Pescheria” fish market below. The place was packed with tables and men haggling. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be living and dead seafood – squirming squids, wriggling eels, gigantic tuna, shrimps, prawns, clams, mussels – you name it, it was there. I found this man selling live eels which he pulled out of a tub with a cloth and weighed on a bronze scale.
Sicily’s Catholic heritage permeates Catanese society—from the baroque churches to the garden statues of the Madonna sold for 5 euros on the street.
I also liked this little Madonna at the corner of the parking lot keeping the sleepy, elderly attendant company.
Wherever you go in Catania, people are selling things on the street. Here are some women in their bedroom slippers having a lively chat with the fruit and vegetable seller in the street in a photo I took from the balcony of my hotel room. They were speaking in dialect so I could not understand but they were having a fine old time laughing and flirting.
And here are a few items you can find on sale on the street in Catania. “Fascio” in Italian means a bundle, but in slang it means a fascist. I found these “fascio” on sale for 6 euros. I am not sure what the leaves are, but I think they might be bundles of artichokes. If any blog readers know, please fill me in.
The purple cauliflower is a lot prettier than the “fascio”.
And I have to conclude with some street food. I actually met this guy on my last trip to Catania in October. Salvatucci Ballerina sells artichokes stuffed with onions and garlic roasted on a grill on the street. The price is one euro each. “Salvatucci is like saying ‘little Salvatore'” he explained to me, adding, “and Ballerina is little dancer.”
“Please use my name and write that this is a specialty of Catania,” he said as he did his own little dance around the smoking grill.