Saturday, 19 January 2013

Sicily - Catania

Catania is Sicily's second city after its capitol of Palermo. We visited it once in mid December with two fellow Brits whom were also based at Camper Lagani in Giardini. The city I found to be pleasant from an architectural point of view, with many buildings reflecting a typically ornate Italian look to them - well we are in Sicily I suppose.
It has a large well stocked fish market with stalls and tables laden with prawns, whole fish, shell fish, eels and squid and some others I did not know. It is busy and you need to know what you want and how to tell your supplier in Italian what you want .... we were somewhat awestruck.
There is also a fresh meat market, same thing of hustle and bustle with vendors shouting prices and bargains, but here we were more on home ground recognising some good lamb and summarily bought 1kg of 'potjiekos' (stewing lamb) cuts from one guy. Undeterred we also bought sausage, not quite boerewors, but the closest thing I had seen in a long time. Trouble is they tend to put too much pork into the stuffing, and sometimes a salty style pork which bedevils the taste.

Bellini theatre
Below are two pictures of the fish market in Catania, close to the centre of town. Now this is what I would call a proper 'old style' fish market, it is very fresh and there is plenty of it, it is hustle and bustle and you can haggle, it is wet and fishy underfoot on cobble stones and no place for ladies with new Miu-Miu sandals. Luckily we had old trainers on so blended in with those around us.
Fish market
Fish market
For a change of smells and surroundings we found our way to the shopping high street of Catania, and it did not disappoint. The usual well known brands are all there with some lovely arcades bringing a blend of fashion and cafes together. Nothing like Bond Street in London, but you can slosh out the dosh if you like.

Lupitt shopping arcade
Near the shopping high street  you will find the stalls and trestle tables with hawkers selling all and anything that is bargain basement, factory reject, unwanted surplus stocks, and a goodly amount of what looked like worn second hand tracksuit tops and bottoms from north Africa. The picture below shows a microcosm of life in this city; the blend of aforementioned clothes stalls and residential flats co-existing side by side. Washing hang from the windows, TV aerials everywhere, trestle tables with tracksuits and caps and milling hordes of shoppers - I think you need to have been born here to survive it all.
A very Sicilian neighbourhood
Sunrise from Jonio's camperstop

 Our camperstop in Catania was Jonio's which is right on the lava cliffs facing the sea. A good campsite if the city is to be visited, with bus stop across the road and other shopping amenities nearby. It has wonderful views across the Straits of Messina if you can secure one of the front row pitches. You can also walk the 5km into town along the seafront which takes about 45 minutes at a fair pace, which is what we did. The views, the passing parade of other joggers and walkers, the hooting and honking of Italian drivers, all lend a wonderfully Italian atmosphere. Remember a sense of humour helps.
Fishing / recreation harbour with Mt Etna in the background
View to Jonio's camperstop
Fishing boat moorings
Catania yacht harbour
We stopped on the way back at a clean small pavement cafe / kiosk near the main train and bus station, ordered two coffees and two bottles of water, and do you know what, it was one of the best freshly made strong Italian espressos we had come across. The owner was chatting away to a mate of his over a Moretti beer, the service was slick and friendly and it all came to less than 5 Euros. We had found a little bit of the real Sicily!

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