Fontana dell'Elefante and Saint Agatha cathedral, Piazza del Duomo, Catania, Sicily, Italy

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Piazza del Duomo


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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Catania attractions

1. Fontana dell'Elefante

Taking centre stage on Catania's showpiece Piazze del Duomo is the city's most memorable monument, the smiling Fontana dell'Elefante (Fountain of the…

2. Palazzo degli Elefanti

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Standing at the northern end of Unesco-lauded Piazza del Duomo, the 'Palace of the Elephants' is Catania's town hall. The building's eastern, southern and…

3. Fontana dell'Amenano

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Separating Piazza del Duomo from rough-and-tumble food market La Pescheria is gushing Fontana dell'Amenano, a Carrara-marble fountain created by…

4. Museo Diocesano

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The most obvious reason to visit this museum, adjacent to Catania's duomo, is to see the Fercolo, the famous silver reliquary bust of Saint Agata that's…

5. La Pescheria

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Catania's raucous fish market, which takes over the streets behind Piazza del Duomo every workday morning, is pure street theatre. Tables groan under the…

6. Porta Uzeda

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Built to connect Via Etnea to the port, Porta Uzeda was commissioned by the Duke of Camastra and completed in 1696. The gate is named in honour of Spanish…

7. Chiesa Badia di Sant'Agata

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With an elegant concave-convex facade reminiscent of Borromini, this 18th-century church was designed by Palermitan architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini…

8. Cattedrale di Sant'Agata

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Inside the vaulted interior of this cathedral, beyond its impressive marble facade sporting two orders of columns taken from the Roman amphitheatre, lie…