Catania was rebuilt using antiseismic measures. Its major boulevards were made straight and wide, virtually eliminating anything that had existed from medieval Catania. Broad piazzas punctuate many streets. The aim was to make streets wide enough to allow Catanians to escape in case lava flows through the streets again.
In recent years, unchecked growth has sent Catania crawling up the southern slopes of the ferocious Etna and sprawling across the fertile lands of the Simeto River.
The old center of the city is the Piazza Duomo, with the fountain of the ancient elephant. Splitting Catania in two parts is its main street, Via Vittorio Emanuele II, which begins east at Piazza del Martini running west past Piazza Duomo.
Running on a north-south axis, Via Etnea is the grand boulevard of Catania that runs north from Piazza Duomo for 3km (2 miles). Along this avenue are the best restaurants and boutiques. Eventually Via Etnea reaches Villa Bellini, the beautiful public gardens.
In western Catania, Via Crociferi is the city's gracious street of the baroque, flanked by churches and palazzi.
Tourist offices are found at the Stazione Centrale, Piazza Giovanni XXIII (tel. 095-7306255; www.apt.catania.it), and at Via Cimarosa Domenico 10 (tel. 095-7306211), both open daily 8am to 8pm. There is also a branch at the airport (tel. 095-7306266), open daily 8am to 8pm. Stop by one of the three to ask for a map highlighting the monuments and places of interest around town.
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