Entries by Dominique Rizzo

Discover the City of Catania in Sicily

Discover the City of Catania in Sicily


Where is it?

Catania  is the second largest city in Sicily after Palermo, and among the ten largest cities in Italy.  Its located on the eastern coast of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna, the biggest volcano in Europe. Catania faces the Ionian Sea which includes the gulfs of Squillace and Taranto (Italy) and Arta, Patras, and Corinth (Greece). The main Ionian ports are Syracuse, Catania (Sicily), Taranto (Italy),Corfu (Ionian Islands), and  Patrai (Greece).

How did Catania it gets its name?

The history behind Sicily and each of its cities is a tangled story of conquests. Historically the name Catania can be found in three stories –

  1. Old Sicilian dialect “Katane” which means “Grater“. The name was undoubtedly inspired by the  territory shaped by the lava on the slopes of Etna, full of rocky and sharp scenarios formed by the cooling lava that can just “grate” anyone who recklessly ventures.
  2. This involves the more modern and popular Latin. “Catinum“, ie: Recipient, Basin for the natural conformation in the shape of a hollow of the hills around the city or as a reference to the basin of the “Flat basement” that houses the city.
  3. Sees the hand of the Greeks who used the word “Aitnè” to name the volcano that later became “Etna” . The Greeks used the prefix “Katà“, or “Supported” or “Near” to indicate this settlement located just below the imposing volcano. So Katà-Aitnè or: Catania.



      “The motto of Catania is ‘Melior de cinere            surgo’: From the ruins, I emerge stronger.”


The History of Catania…in a nutshell

The area of Catania was settled early by Sicels. In 729 B.C. Chalcidian Greeks from the nearby town of Naxos founded Katane, which flourished as a Greek trading town until the 5th Century B.C. The tyrant Hieron I of Syracuse moved the inhabitants of Katane to Leontinoi, named the town after the nearby volcano Aitne and settled more than 10,000 new settlers into the city. After Hieron’s death, the original inhabitants moved up to the southern slope of Mount Etna again and returned to their city. After being destroyed by a lava flow and then rebuilt Dionysius I of Syracuse conquered the city, enslaved the population and settled Campanian soldiers in Katane.



Rule Under The Romans

The city flourished again thanks to the fertile volcanic soil which aided agriculture. Under the Romans Catania was a Civitas decumana and part of the Roman province Sicilia. Many buildings such as the Roman theatre, the amphitheater and the baths bear witness to the blossoming of the city under the Roman Empire. The Roman Theatre is one of the best examples of Roman architecture to survive centuries of natural disasters.


 Catania in the Middle Ages: Prosperity, earthquakes and plague

During the Byzantine and Arab rule, Catania lost its importance and was outstripped by other Sicilian cities like Palermo and Syracuse. Fortune was less than favourable to Catania over the course of history. Although it came to prominence as a commercial and maritime centre under the Normans again, the earthquake of 1169 with 15,000 deaths and the devastation caused by Emperor Henry VI of Hohenstaufen in 1194 led to tough times yet again for the city.


The Renaissance and the birth of Sicilian Music and Literature

During the 14th century, and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy’s most important cultural, artistic and political centers. Not only was it  the site of Sicily’s first university, it has been the native or adopted home of some of Italy’s most famous and influential artists and writers, including  composers Vincenzo Bellini and Giovanni Pacini, and the writers Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana, Federico De Roberto and Nino Martoglio.


It was not until 1434 that Catania gained importance again thanks to the establishment of the university, the oldest in Sicily and one of the oldest in Italy, by the Spanish House of Aragon and became the second largest city in Sicily.



Destruction of Catania 1669/1693 and history to the present day


The late 16th and 17th Century saw some significant developments in the history of Catania. In 1576 a major part of the population died due to the plague; in 1669 a lava flow destroyed the western part of the city; and, in 1693 a heavy earthquake destroyed the rest of Catania. Catania’s present day appearance is thanks to its reconstruction in the 18th Century, following the designs by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini using the iconic dark lava stone seen in many of the towns surrounding Etna.



Discover the beauty of Catania


The major feature of Catania is its architecture, which is predominantly baroque and feature mainly theatricality characteristics.

This style dominated Europe in the 17th century as a result of the reformation/counter-reformation where the statement given was one of grandeur.

The preceding style was Renaissance, while the succeeding was Neoclassicism. The three major features are a near excessive amount of detail (statues, lots of gold, columns and pilasters, garlands and wreaths with tall facades and frescoes often featuring trompe-l’œil (visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object).

Baroque from Catania has several unique features such as use of dark lava stone (basalt), the Bell in the facade itself and grotesque masks and putti. Due to the natural disasters and the destruction of the city , the centre now shines in the Sicilian Baroque style. Whether the Piazza del Duomo with the black lava elephant, the Roman Theatre, the Villa Bellini, the Cathedral of Sant’Agata or any of the numerous churches – Catania offers its visitors a wealth of interesting places and tourist attractions.


The top 5 sites of Catania you wont want to miss …

  • As the main square in Catania, the Piazza Del Duomo has a great deal to offer in terms of attractions. Located in the heart of the city close to the port area, this central square is a regular gathering place for the locals and a great tourist spot. In the center of the square is the impressive Fontana Dell’Elefante, the Fontana Dell’Amenano, Catania Cathedral and the Palazzo degli Elefanti – All fine pieces of architecture. Furthermore there is a series of cafes and restaurants with ideally situated outside seating so you can have a drink, a bite to eat, and enjoy the fine Sicilian weather. The Piazza Del Duomo is a great place to start a walking tour of Catania, and from here you are in close proximity to many of the main sights.
  • Castello Ursino has been standing proud above Catania since the 13th century. Today, the castle is an art-themed visitor attraction packed with items from the city’s Roman Theatre, alongside Greek artefacts and religious paintings. Like most castles, Ursino is perched atop a hill and therefore offers excellent views across Catania’s red-hued rooftops. The courtyard is also occasionally used for concerts.
  • Believed to have been built in the 2nd century CE, Catania’s Roman Theatre may look modest from the street, though inside it’s anything but. Its cobbles, columns and caves offer an atmospheric insight into Roman history – with much of it beneath street level. Over time, earthquakes and erosions have caused the lower parts to drop. As such, the orchestra area is often washed by the underground Amenano River, rendering it unusable for performances, though the amphitheatre still hosts events.
  • Catania’s fish market, known as La Pescheria, is one of the most well-known in the world. Located a stone’s throw from Piazza del Duomo, this market is atop a set of volcanic-rock formed steps and ignites the senses as soon as you head towards it: the sights, sounds and – questionable for some – smells of a fish market are unmistakable. If you’re staying in self-catering accommodation, or you just love people-watching, this is the place to go.
  • If you travel for approximately 10 miles to the north of Catania along the coast, you will arrive at the charming village of Aci Castello – This village was originally constructed around the castle that lies on the coast and has stood there since the Norman conquests of Sicily.  The castle is indeed the main sight here and sits apart from the village on a rock outcrop facing the sea.  Built in 1076 the castle has stood for hundreds of years and is an iconic landmark on this section of Sicilian coast.  Today you can explore the grounds of the castle and climb up to the top battlements for fantastic views out to the sea and the surrounding countryside.


The top 6 sites in walking distance from the center of Catania


  1. The Cathedral of Catania is a simply beautiful structure and is a masterpiece of Norman and Baroque architecture. Located in the center of the old town, the cathedral can be found in the self-styled Piazza Del Duomo and is in close proximity to many of the other sights. Originally constructed in 1078 over the ruins of a Roman Baths, the cathedral has been restored many times due to earthquakes in the region. The front façade features a grey stone design with a series of ornate statues depicting religious figures and a large domed basilica sits at the back of the main aisle. Inside, there is a large amount of beautiful details such as the frescos at the main altar, the decorative artwork and paintings, and the tomb of the notable composer Bellini.
  2. A fine public space for relaxation and enjoying nature, the Giardini Bellini and the Parco Maestranze are located to the west of the Piazza Carlo Alberto in the town center. The Bellini garden is located at the east side of the park and contains a beautiful fountain and several flower beds. Furthermore there is an ornate bandstand and many varieties of tree. Aside from the Giardini Bellini, the Maestranze Park features a series of shaded walking trails covered by luscious forest.
  3. Located in-between the Roman Theatre and the Giardini Bellini, the Via dei Crociferi features four spectacular churches – The Church of St. Francesco Borgia, The Church of San Benedetto, The Church of St. Francis Assisi and the Church of San Giuliana. This historic street is one of the main arteries of the city and features a plethora of historical buildings. Each building has its own unique design and offers something different. Furthermore, there is also the San Benedetto Arch and the cloisters of the Jesuit College. Consider visiting this street in conjunction with a trip to the Roman Theatre.
  4. Considered one of Italy’s most magnificent opera houses, the grand Teatro Massimo Bellini dazzles with its imposing Sicilian baroque-style façade and opulent interiors. Admire its fin de siècle beauty during an opera or concert in the evening, or join a tour during the day to see its ornate marble foyer and 19th-century boxes.
  5. Taking its name from Mount Etna, the imposing volcano that looms over the city, Via Etnea is one of Catania’s most important thoroughfares, lined with shops, restaurants, and cafés. A lively destination both day and night, Via Etnea connects two of the city’s top attractions—Piazza Duomo and Villa Bellini.
  6. Known as the “Sicilian Sistine Chapel,” this baroque church on Catania’s photogenic Via Crociferi is home to dazzling frescoes by the 18th-century painter Giovanni Tuccari, sumptuous stuccoes, a lavish choir loft, and an ornate marble altar. Don’t miss the Scalinata dell’Angelo, a stone staircase decorated with statues of angels. Part of the Benedictine Monastery complex, the Chiesa di San Benedetto is one of the baroque jewels lining Via Crociferi, and a highlight of Catania’s historic center. Admire the church’s facade and interiors on a walking tour that stops at the Sicilian baroque churches along Catania’s picturesque thoroughfare.  The Chiesa di San Benedetto is located along Via Crociferi in Catania’s historic center, an easy walk from the Catania Centrale train station and most major sights.

Love the idea of visiting Catania?

Join me on one of my Sicilian foodie adventures – click here to register your details for my 2023 tours.

Why You Need to Visit the Casino Le Royal Chamonix

Here are just some of the reasons you should visit: Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, commonly shorted to Chamonix, is a French city nestled between the Alps. It is known as a skiing hotspot and for its mix of modern and traditional architecture. The area sees around 440,000 tourists, but this number typically changes depending on the season. Many of these visitors come to participate in the numerous outdoor activities and see the historical sights of the city. If you’re looking for a more laid-back and unique experience in France, the Casino Le Royal Chamonix is a great place to be.

12 Calorie Busting Ideas For Working From Home

12 Simple Ways to Cut Calories While Working from Home


Losing weight is never an effortless endeavor. It’s particularly challenging when you work from home and the kitchen is so close by. In the age of COVID-19, you can certainly relate to the struggles of attempting to attain—or even maintain—a body in which you feel confident, strong, and healthy.

The three most vital components of losing weight are a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. As unfortunate and frustrating as it is, sometimes there are simply not enough hours in the day for the latter two on this short list.

There are, thankfully, simple ways that you can significantly reduce your daily calorie intake. Here are 12 easy ways to cut calories when working from home.

  1. Don’t Drink Your Calories

One of the most common mistakes made by people trying—and failing—to lose weight is that they consume an excessive number of calories in beverage form. The regular consumption of sugary drinks has shown to result in obesity, as well as type-2 diabetes. As a point of reference, a can of Coke contains around 40 grams of sugar and 200 calories.

Not only does the consumption of sugary drinks drastically increase your calorie intake, it also results in even greater levels of hunger shortly after consumption. Stay away from sweet sodas and cut back on the amount of sugar you add to your tea and coffee.

  1. Reduce Your Sauce and Dressing Consumption

Garnishes such as mayonnaise, chutney, and ketchup are surprisingly calorie dense. Just one tablespoon of mayonnaise contains around 94 calories. Sauces and dressings are often absolutely necessary for flavor. You do, after all, want your food to taste good. We’re simply suggesting that you cut back as much as possible. Swap a dollop for a drizzle.

  1. Eat Plenty of Vegetables

Research conducted in the United States indicates that between 85 and 90% of adults don’t include enough vegetables in their regular diet. When you ensure your meals comprise of mostly vegetables, you can drastically up your vitamin intake, while also cutting back on unnecessary calories. Vegetables make a great snack too, so you can grab some carrot sticks, tomatoes, and cucumber when you’re feeling peckish. 

  1. Use Small Plates and Bowls

This psychological trick is a great way of reducing your calorie intake. Take your inspiration from a culinary tour of Spain, where tapas plates are the norm.

By reducing your plate or bowl size, your serving size will automatically decrease too. Once you’ve gotten accustomed to smaller crockery, reduced portion sizes will simply become the new norm.

  1. Stay Hydrated

Drinking water before every meal helps you to feel full more quickly. When you can feel satisfied without having to consume unnecessary additional food, you eliminate huge quantities of calories that would have otherwise gone straight to your hips. In fact, studies have shown that you can reduce your calorie intake by up to 13% by drinking 2 cups of water before every meal.

  1. Low GI Carbohydrates

We’re all aware that carbohydrates should be minimized when trying to cut back on calories and lose weight. It is, however, unreasonable to expect that you can completely eliminate them from your diet. This is why we would recommend consuming exclusively low GI carbohydrates. Low glycemic index foods include those with a rating of 55 or less. Examples include oatmeal, grain-rich bread, lentils, beans, and fruit.

  1. Eat Slowly

When you eat your food mindfully and at a slower pace, you become more aware of when you’re full. Not only does this give your body time to start feeling full before your plate is empty, but it also heightens your sense of awareness that this is, in fact, happening.

If you’re someone that usually eats hastily, practice putting down your knife and fork between chewing and your next bite. Alternatively, plate your food beautifully and take time with its presentation. If your food looks photo-worthy, you’re less likely to wolf it down and more inclined to savor every bite. 

  1. Separate Food from Work

When life is busy and the demands of work are causing you to feel stressed and time-pressured, it’s easy to wolf down a simple sandwich while staring at work emails. But eating while distracted results in overeating.

Not only this, when your lunch routinely goes unappreciated, then you’re discouraged from putting effort into the future preparation of healthy meals. Eliminate all distractions from your mealtime. Use your lunch break to nourish your body and clear your mind. Think of the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited, your next holiday, or anything else you enjoy.

  1. Include Protein

Protein will keep you fuller for longer than any other form of nutrition. This is because it reduces the presence of ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’, while also increasing levels of GLP-1, cholecystokinin, and peptide YY—a combination of appetite-suppressing hormones. Naturally, the adjustment of these specific hormones in this manner will significantly reduce calorie intake. 

  1. Snack Wisely

Snacks are sneaky in their often high calorie content. If you feel the urge to snack on something to fuel you through the latter half of the afternoon, choose carefully. For example, substitute crisps for carrots when looking for something to dip in hummus or pesto. That said, fruits are the ideal snack for in-between meals.

  1. Avoid Second Helpings

Most of the time, when you reach for that second helping, you don’t actually need it. Although you might be in need of a particularly large dinner after a long day of working from home, try to recognize the difference between desire and need.

If you’re on the fence, we recommend waiting 10 to 20 minutes before deciding whether to help yourself to a second serving. Instead of overeating, save the leftovers for a healthy and satisfying lunch the following day.

  1. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has quickly become one of the most popular dietary strategies for reducing calorie consumption. The most widely adopted approach is one where you’re allowed to eat for 8 consecutive hours of the day, followed by 16 hours of fasting. For example, you can eat between the hours of 10am and 6pm. But you are not allowed to eat between 6pm and 10am the following morning.

If you’re battling a bit of a bulge, you may want to give it a try and see if this calorie-busting method works for you. It may require a bit of meal planning, but it’s worth it.

Now that you’ve got 12 ways to cut calories while working from home, you can switch up your eating habits and see what works for you. Working from home doesn’t have to equal a bigger waistline.