Goethe's Sicily - Part 3: from the center to the east

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Back to the first part of the journey: The landing in Palermo
Back to the second part of the journey: The Temples
Located 650 meters high, Caltanissetta is immersed in the natural reserves, seven in this territory in the heart of Sicily; moreover, peoples of the past, Greeks, Arabs and Bourbons have left splendid historical-architectural testimonies, such as the Castle of Pietrarossa (built in 1080), the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nova, whose nave is now born from the splendid frescoes, the work of the Flemish painter William Borremans (1670-1744) andAbbey of S.Spirito, a splendid example of Romanesque style in which a Romanesque baptismal font is preserved.
Nicknamed "Il Belvedere di Sicilia", Enna (ancient Castrogiovanni and highest province of Italy), from its 931 meters high, really seems to dominate the whole island; Goethe described it like this: an isolated ridge that gives the landscape an unusual and severe character.


  1. Catania, Taormina and Messina
  2. User questions and comments

Catania, Taormina and Messina

The reports of trips to Sicily made by great writers such as Goethe are a precious tool to be able to enjoy the sensations that this magnificent land, with its artistic and natural beauties, gives to those who visit it.
Goethe, almost at the end of his long and very tiring journey (in those days people traveled on the back of a mule) arrived in Catania, Taormina and Messina.
In Catania Goethe frequented the local nobility, among the palaces and Baroque monuments.
Catania is one of the most beautiful Sicilian cities and rich in history; the historic center has been declared UNESCO heritage.
In the central Piazza Duomo you can admire the emblem of Catania, the Elephant Fountain called "o Liotru" and, in front of the fountain, the Cathedral dedicated to S. Agata.
Very impressive is also the Castello Ursino, which is located in Piazza Federico di Svevia; inside the castle you can admire the Civic Museum of Catania.
After the visit to Catania, Goethe discovers that "strip of paradise" that causes strong emotions in the German writer, enchanted by the panorama that the Greek theatre: Whoever stands at the highest point, once occupied by spectators, cannot help but confess that perhaps the audience of a theater has never had such a spectacle before them ... The gaze embraces the entire long 'Etna, the beach up to Catania. The huge smoking volcano concludes the immense picture, but without crudity, because the vapors of the atmosphere make it appear more distant and more graceful, than it is in reality ... Taormina, from the top of its 200 meters above sea level , dominates a wonderful panorama that embraces Etna and the plain below, rich in fragrant citrus groves.
Going up from Porta Messina you arrive in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the ancient Agora, then to the Roman Forum where the Palazzo Corvaja is located, a splendid fifteenth-century architecture.
The climate in this area is mild (even in winter it rarely drops below 15 °), the beauty of the places, a set of precious architectural elements, rich in archaeological value, splendid gardens and landscape elements make the city of Taormina the ideal destination for national and international tourism.
From the urban center of Taormina the underlying beaches of Giardini Naxos, Isola Bella and Mazzarò are within easy reach.
JW Goethe's trip to Sicily ends in Messina, where he only finds "the horrifying vision of a destroyed city": the 1783 earthquake hit southern Italy hard, razing the cities of Reggio Calabria and Messina to the ground.
Restored several times due to the earthquakes and bombings of 1943, the Cathedral of Messina it can be admired in all its splendor, a Norman monument erected in the first half of the th century, consecrated in the presence of Henry IV with the name of Santa Maria; in the bell tower there is the Astronomical Clock (the largest and most complex mechanical clock in the world) and every day, at noon, various statues (reminiscent of historical events) move to the sound of Schubert's Ave Maria.

  • The journey starts again from the first part: The landing in Palermo
  • Back to the second part of the journey: The Temples

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