Yesterday afternoon Les and I headed toward Catania. It was the middle of riposo so we decided to do a bit of sightseeing, senza the crowds. We "discovered" the Castello Ursino in Catania. We had heard about it but in two and a half years of living here we still hadn't visited. Sure, we had driven past it a time or two when we got lost in Catania, but never stopped.
The Castello Ursino was built sometime between 1239-1250 and originally belonged to Emperor Frederick II, King of Sicily. The castello housed several of King Frederick's successors and eventually changed from a residence into a prison. The Castello Ursino is one of the few structures that survived the great earthquake of 1693. The castello was built on a cliff looking out to the sea but after centuries of Etna's eruptions and earthquakes the castello is now a kilometer inland. The castello's moat was filled by lava from Etna in the 17th century.
Today the castello houses a museum and art gallery, and entrance is free. The museum has a few lovely sculptures and remains of gorgeous mosaics. Flash photography isn't allowed inside the museum so most of my pictures came out a bit blurry...still trying to get the knack of low-light photography. Anyhow, here are the few pictures I was able to salvage.
After visiting the castello stores were beginning to open up after riposo. We went in search of an international food store that I had seen advertised. We found the store after several wrong turns and the GPS trying to lead us down streets filled with Catania's huge outdoor market. Oops. Finally we found the store, and then ended up driving around for another 1/2 hour trying to find a place to park. Eventually we found a spot, paid for the space, and then set off on foot to try and find the store again. Luckily we were only a few blocks away. The store was awesome! So many goodies, a variety that I hadn't seen outside of the United States. I made a few purchases and then we set off to our second destintaion, a music store for Les. We were lucky enough to have it be on the same street! After shopping we just wandered the streets with Sicilians out for their evening passeggiata. We ended our evening with Chinese Food. A BIG treat for me! It was a lovely afternoon, and so nice to spend some time in Catania. We don't do it too often. It is an hour away from home and the traffic and parking situations are often a deterrant, but yesterday it was worth the hassle.