Catania, Sicily, Italy
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Sicily’s second-largest city is intimately connected to the active volcano that towers above it. The smoking, gurgling peak of Mt. Etna, one of the island's most iconic landmarks, has shaped Catania significantly, most notably in the 1600s when an eruption sent lava flowing to the sea. But the real damage happened some 25 years later when an earthquake rocked and destroyed the city. Catania was reconstructed in the Baroque style using the lava rock at hand, earning the historical center its UNESCO World Heritage status. In the 20th century, Catania had a reputation as a rough-and-tumble port, but recent decades have seen major restoration and revitalization, making the city an ideal spot to explore local street markets, visit Roman ruins and learn about a rich history that dates back to Ancient Greece. Catania’s central location on the eastern Sicilian coast also makes it a great base for exploring nearby Taormina and Syracuse, the wineries on Mt. Etna and idyllic local beaches.