Piazza del Duomo

Square in Catania
Image by Ingolf Pompe / Getty Images

A Unesco World Heritage Site, Catania's central piazza is a set piece of contrasting lava and limestone, surrounded by buildings in the unique local baroque style and crowned by the grand Cattedrale di Sant'Agata. At its centre stands Fontana dell'Elefante (1736), a naive, smiling black-lava elephant dating from Roman times and surmounted by an improbable Egyptian obelisk. Another fountain at the piazza's southwest corner, Fontana dell'Amenano, marks the entrance to Catania's fish market.

Legend has it that the elephant belonged to the 8th-century magician Eliodorus, who reputedly made his living by turning people into animals. The obelisk itself is said to possess magical powers that help ease Mt Etna's volatile temperament. Much younger is the 19th-century Amenano fountain. Created by Neapolitan sculptor Tito Angelini, the splash-happy piece commemorates the Amenano river, which once ran above ground and on whose banks the Greeks first founded the city of Catania, which they named Katáne.