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The well of Gammazita in Catania

Myth and history at the foot of Mt. Etna

In the historical centre of Catania, a few steps from the Ursino Castle, there is an old water well that holds a legend very dear to the city: the legend of the young Gammazita. Let’s remember it together!

A photo of the water well of Gammazita
The water well of Gammazita

Gammazita: an example of virtue

The legend tells the story of a young girl from Catania who lived during the Angevin domination and who used to go to the well to get water. It seems that a French soldier fell in love with her but the girl, close to the wedding, refused him. On the day of the wedding, just as the girl was going to the well, the soldier took the opportunity to attack her. Gammazita in order to escape and having no other solution threw herself into the well, thus preferring death.

This legend was enriched with the passing of time with details and so new versions were born, one of which speaks of a beautiful woman, widow of the lord of Ficara, Macalda Scaletta. The woman was disputed by several men but she refused because she was in love with the young page Giordano. The latter, however, was madly in love with Gammazita and Macalda, in the grip of jealousy, agreed with a French soldier Saint Victor, so that they would capitulate Gammazita. So it was that Saint Victor began to attempt several ambushes until he tried to attack her just as the girl was going to draw water from the well. The girl, however, preferred to throw herself into the well and die. Giordano, having learned the news, stabbed Saint Victor on his beloved’s body. The red stains on the walls of the well, due to the presence of iron, were indicated as stains on the girl’s blood.
Gammazita thus became the symbol of virtue, honesty and patriotism of the women of Catania.

The well and the eruption of Etna in 1669

The well was located in the medieval area of the Judecca Suttana, the ancient Jewish ghetto, and a place where numerous water springs flowed. Following the eruption of Etna in 1669, the Gammazita well was buried under 14 metres of lava. For a time it was abandoned, until it was rediscovered and enhanced by scholars during the Grand Tour.
Today it is possible to visit the well through a staircase of about 62 steps, and you can admire a stretch of the sixteenth-century curtain, where the water flowed from the well frequented by the beautiful Gammazita.

This is one of the many legends linked to the history of our volcano, and you could listen to it by participating in one of our tours on Etna. Or you could book a cultural tour with our partner Sicily Day By Day to discover all the hidden treasures of our beautiful Catania!