Via Etnea

Via Etna is the main street of the historic centre of Catania. It goes from Piazza Duomo to Tondo Gioieni.

Via Etnea arose only at the end of the seventeenth century after the disastrous earthquake of January 11th 1693. The earthquake almost razed the city, and about two-thirds of the inhabitants perished under the ruins. The Duke of Camastra was sent by the viceroy with a mandate to supervise the reconstruction of the city. He decided to draw the new roads according to the orthogonal directions and started from the Cathedral, which was one of the few buildings which were not completely destroyed by the tragic event. They thus created a road that, starting from the Cathedral headed towards Mount Etna and a road that intersected with it: it was the current Via Etnea. The road was originally named Via Duca di Uzeda, in honour of the viceroy of the time, then Stesicorea and finally Via Etnea as the road heads towards Mount Etna. At that time the road was about seven hundred meters long and ended in Piazza Stesicoro, then called Porta di Aci, one of the gates of the city. The perpendicular street, the current via Vittorio Emanuele, was instead called via Lanza, then Corso and finally changed its name in the nineteenth century.

The buildings along the two roads were built in the Sicilian Baroque style by the architects Giovan Battista Vaccarini and Francesco Battaglia. Seven churches were built along via Etnea starting from the Cathedral situated in Piazza Duomo: Basilica of the Collegiate Church, the church of Minoriti, the church of San Biagio, the church of SS. Sacramento, the church of St. Agatha al Borgo and the church of Badiella. Many aristocratic palaces and public buildings were also built along the road: Palazzo degli Elefanti, the town hall, University Palace and San Giuliano Palace. Further on, the Palazzo Gioeni and Palazzo San Demetrio ai Quattro Canti. In Piazza Stesicoro is Palazzo del Toscano and Palazzo Tezzano. We then find the Post Office building and the main entrance of Bellini park. During the twentieth century the street developed over the intersection with the avenues and went on to Piazza Cavour, called “Borgo” from the people of Catania, with its Fountain of Cerere in Carrara marble, known by the locals as a’ tapallara (goddess Pallas). It was then extended until Tondo Gioeni, where the ring road of Catania was built in the fifties.

Via Etnea today – The road was recently repaved with cobblestones in Etna lava stone, and is now a pedestrian zone in the stretch that goes from Piazza Duomo to Quattro Canti. The part that goes up from Quattro Canti to Bellini park is instead used only by public transport and taxis. It is the main shopping street and crowded both day and night: the surrounding streets are packed with restaurants, bars, pubs and pizzerias.