How can you peacefully live when you have Etna as your neighbour? It can’t be easy. The people of Catania know this well. In some 2700 years of history, the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean Sea, the epithet used to describe the city of the volcano, has been destroyed seven times. Yet why do the Catanese insist on living here? What drives them?
Let’s start from the beginning. When Katane was founded in 729 B.C., Etna had already been there for over half a million years. Therefore, the Catanese were already born with the habit of sharing their lives with her (Etna). Precisely for this reason, the name of the city already has a clear reference to our volcano. Katane, in fact, means grater. And this is not because the early Catanese already loved pasta alla norma, but because a grater is as harsh as the surface of a volcano. Again, in Greek times, Catania was known as the city, the place near the volcano: kata aithos, later transformed into kata aitne, until it reached its current form, Catania.
In historical times, Etna, and the nature of the island in general, has repeatedly threatened inhabited centres. In 1669, for example, we had the most powerful and destructive eruption in living memory. From the Monti Rossi, two volcanic cones about 180 metres high that originated near Nicolosi at 700m above the sea level, on 8th March, a lava flow destroyed everything it came across: Nicolosi, precisely, Mascalucia, Gravina di Catania, the northern part of the city, until it reached its heart, on the coast. The Ursino Castle, the same one you can admire right in front of our office, was right at the coastline. Today, the coast is about 1 km away from here.
So, as we asked ourselves at the beginning, why do the Catanese insist on living here? Undoubtedly, we can speak of a visceral love that binds us to our land. This is a feeling typical of the people of southern Italy. But there is more. If, on the one hand, Etna is a little ‘severe’ with us, on the other hand she is extremely generous as only a mother can be. And in what does this generosity consist? In the incredible wealth of our territory. Think, for example, of agriculture. The slopes of our volcano are extremely fertile and allow farmers to obtain unique products: Etna’s DOC wines, pistachios, blood oranges.
The predominant colours on any farm and in the city are dark grey and black and derive from basalt, the hard stone, as its name of Latin derivation basanites suggests, is still widespread in Catania and its province. A material as hard as it is versatile, it characterises the Etnean territory and, with good reason, Catania boasts the title of Black Pearl of the Mediterranean Sea.
Finally, tourism. It was 2013 when Etna joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This important recognition has led our volcano to become an increasingly popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Join us, we will help you to know this love story that has now lasted almost three millennia!