A story of the objects that have made Sicily famous worldwide
11 Jan 2021
A trip to Catania and its surroundings must include the discovery of all those unique artisanal products that have made this area internationally famous. Ceramics, lava stone sculptures, the splendid pupi marionettes might make your suitcases heavier but will certainly lift your spirits with their fine handwork.
So let’s embark on a tour to discover this land and its culture through its most characteristic artisanal traditions.
The pupi and the pupari
Let’s start our tour from Catania’s historical centre, part of the UNESCO world heritage and from here head to the three most important monuments of this area, the Fountain of the Elephant, the Cathedral of Sant’Agata and the Fountain of the Amenano. Along this route you’ll encounter testimonies of one of the most characteristic products of the city’s crafting tradition dating back to the nineteenth century: the pupi, and the pupari.
The pupi are marionettes used in a particular form of Sicilian theatre that UNESCO declared part of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2008.
Lava stone creations
After visiting Catania you are ready to head north towards the Etna volcano and its Park, the soul of the city’s surroundings with charming small towns amidst a fascinating nature offering sublime examples of lava stone artistic creations. A classic example of this craft is the elephant of the fountain in the historical centre of Catania. If you fancy buying an example of this craft, the to-go-to towns are Giarre and Paternò, thirty kilometres north on the coast, and twenty kilometres west of Catania respectively.
Ceramics of Caltagirone
Heading south-west from Catania, after about a one-hour drive, you’ll reach the city of Caltagirone, the Sicilian capital of ceramics. But before venturing around the local shops, be sure to visit the splendid Corte Capitaniale, a noble edifice built between the seventeenth and the eighteenth century with refined portals and windows, and from there reach the top of the Steps of Santa Maria del Monte, decorated with polychrome ceramic tiles from which you will enjoy a breathtaking view of the whole town. Another unmissable site of Caltagirone is the Museum of Ceramics displaying objects dating from the 4th century BCE to the eighteenth century.
The Carrettu and the town of Aci Sant’Antonio
A few kilometres from the coast north of Catania, there is another place that has made the history of Sicilian crafts: the town of Aci Sant’Antonio, home to one of Sicily’s artisanal centuries-old traditions, the carrettu, part of the immaterial heritage of Sicily. Thanks to its famous artisans, the city has become an internationally known symbol of a product that is the result of the collaboration of carpenters, painters, carvers, and smiths and that today has become a unique piece of design.
Where to stay in Catania
You have explored small towns and their traditional workshops, met famous artisans and lava stone artists and familiarised with ancient Sicilian traditions. You deserve a relaxing evening, perhaps with an aperitivo and a good glass of wine, on the splendid terrace of Palace Catania | UNA Esperienze hotel situated in the heart of the city of Catania. From its large pensile garden you’ll be able to admire the breathtaking view of the Etna volcano while looking at the sunset. Featuring a steam bath, a fitness hall and two elegant restaurants, this structure will give you a true taste of the best Sicilian elegance.