A short stage with just an uncomplicated climb up Portella Mandrazzi, mid-course. From Catania to just outside Taormina, the roads are quite wide and mostly flat, but twisting and winding, with only a few straight stretches. After leaving the coastline, the route takes in the long Portella Mandrazzi climb (avg. gradient: 4%), followed by a lengthy descent that will lead the peloton to the northern coast of the island. Over the final 70 km, the stage follows the shoreline. The roads here are quite wide, flat and straight, with a few urban areas along the route.
With nearly 4 km to go, the course leaves the trunk road and kicks up into urban Messina. The route continues along broad city avenues, initially downhill, then up again until the 1,500 m marker, and then takes a short descent. There is one final bend 800 m before the finish line, which sits on 7.5 m wide, flat and asphalt road.
start / finish
Catania is located on the east coast of the main Italian island, Sicily. The city is located on a plain, located between the Ionian Sea and the slopes of majestic Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Catania’s old town, where you’ll find the main tourist attractions, is easy to explore on foot.
According to Tucidides, Catania was founded in 729 BC by Greek settlers from Calcide in Eubea.
The Romans arrived and conquered Catania in 263 BC. With Augustus Catania it was raised to the rank of Roman colony; The first major architectural feats date back to this period.
With the fall of the Roman Empire Catania suffered the incursions of the barbarian invasions followed by periods of absolute decline.
The Arab presence in Catania has hardly left a trace in the city. With the advent of the Normans in Catania began the construction of the majestic Cathedral-fortress that had arisen in the heart of the town. The choice of the site was dictated by the need to control the port.
Under Frederick II of Svevia, ursino Castle (1239 1250) was built on a headland to defend the southwest side of the city. In Aragonese times it became a preferred residence of the Viceroys.
The eruption of 1669 and the earthquake of 1693 changed the very nature of the Catalonia territory.
One of the authors of Catania’s artistic renaissance was the Palermitan architect Abbot Giambattista Vaccarini who created the conditions of the present city; the flowery “Baroque Catania” is the harmonious set of a uniform architecture for style, materials and decorations, the studied use of the white stone of Syracuse and the black lava basalt of Etna. Original style that is affected by the influences of the “Roman” baroque and the “Spanish” baroque.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the City expanded beyond the historic Baroque center and new residential neighborhoods were created: the boulevard Regina Margherita and the course Italy, where beautiful Liberty-style villas arose.
The city is currently inhabited by about 300,000 people.
Catania cuisine is one of the richest and tastiest in Sicily.
The great richness and ease in the redevelopment of raw materials and the love for “flavorful” cuisine, combined with the culinary contaminations fruit of the numerous foreign dominations over the centuries, make Catania a gastronomic reference point of the island.
Famous is the sea salad with octopus, shrimp and ox eyes (molluscs typical of this sea) boiled; equally popular are marinated masculins (Ionian sea anchovies marinated in oil and lemon), salted anchovies, raw ox eyes seasoned with lemon or roasted on charcoal, peppered with mussels (suffering, with abundant pepper, lemon and chopped parsley) “u mauru” ( raw seaweed topped with lemon), “u zuzzu” (pork jelly), “u sangeli” (bloody).
Among the first dishes deserves the place of honor pasta alla Norma, which takes its name from a Celtic masterpiece by Vincenzo Bellini: tomato sauce, fried egg, basil and abundant grated salted ricotta.
Other notable dishes are pasta with cuttlefish black, topped with a sauce prepared with tomato extract, cuttlefish and black of these tasty shellfish; pasta with masculini (fresh anicies in a sautéed onion, peas and fennel rizzu); pasta’ ncaciata, seasoned with cauliflower cooked in an onion pan and seasoned with salted anchovies, olives and caciocavallo.
Meat and fish are served everywhere, with a fondness in the capital for horse-meat, often accompanied by side dishes that, in reality, are real unique dishes:
Parmigiana (fried eggplant casserole), Caponata with eggplant and tomatoes, fennel salad, orange salad (sliced and seasoned with oil, salt and pepper), vegetable dishes and other typical vegetables.
The rotisserie is one of the most renowned in Italy. The main pieces are the Arancini, crispy squabpy rice-filled, Siciliana (thin puff pastry filled with tuma and anchovies), salted crispelles (sweet dough pancakes, stuffed with fresh ricotta or anchovies), the shaded ones ( made with bread dough stuffed with plenty of tuma and anchovies, or vegetables, or cauliflower, baked).
Typical desserts are ricotta Cannoli, Sicilian Cassata, but above all marten fruit or real pasta (soft almond-based pasta with multiple forms of colored fruit); rice-crystals or traditional “olivette di Sant’Agata”. The famous ice creams and Granita (tossed on demand with hand-crafted cream). Among the latter the most popular flavors are almond, lemon, coffee, chocolate, mulberry, peach.
The most representative wines on the territory of Catalonia are, without a doubt, those that are produced on Mount Etna.
The Volcano gives the wines characteristics of minerality and great elegance, due to the strong thermal excursions between day and night and the peculiar pedoclimatic conditions.
“Mountain” wines at particular latitudes, on an island famous for the large number of hours of sunshine during the year: this is the great richness of volcanic wines, along with soils rich in variegated mineral components.
It is on Mount Etna that they have been cultivated for hundreds of years, with the traditional tree vine, the Nerello Mascalese, the Nerello Cappuccio, the Carricante, the Minnella and the Catarratto, all vines that contribute to the production of wines classified as Etna Doc, on all slopes of the Volcano.
Known in the not-too-distant past as “cut” wines to give alcoholic gradation to the much more famous wines of the Northern Italy or French, today the wines of Etna shine with their own light and have conquered substantial slices of the international market, thanks to their recognized longevity.
Points of interest
Piazza Duomo, the focal point of the city, is a grand square, rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 18th century after the terrible earthquake that devastated the city in the late 1600s. Here you can see the baroque facade of the Cathedral dedicated to St. Agatha, founded by Ruggero D’Altavilla as a fortified church in the 11th and rebuilt on the rubble of the Norman cathedral destroyed by the earthquake of 1693. The facade, renovated by architect Giovanbattista Vaccarini, has an unusual scheme based on the use of lava stone black and limestone white, like many of Catania’s 18th-century buildings. Inside, you can admire the tomb of Vincenzo Bellini and the chapel of St. Agatha, where the relics of the patron saint are kept. Below the decking of the Cathedral and the square you can admire the old Roman remains of what were once the Terme Achilleane.
In the center of the Piazza Duomo, in 1735, Vaccarini arranged, on a bordered base with small decorative fountains, an ancient elephant in lava stone: u Liotru, symbol of Catania, which supports an Egyptian obelisk and on top of the agatini symbols. On the north side is the Town Hall (Elephant Palace), in front of it the Amenano Fountain and the Seminary of the Clerics which supports, on the one hand, the ancient Gate of Charles V, one of the ancient entrances of the city walls and on the other, Porta Uzeda, dedicated Spanish Vicerè. Nearby, you can also enjoy the city’s exuberant fish market: la Pescheria.
To the north of here, a second impressive square, University Square, which gives on Via Etnea, the city’s main shopping street.
In Piazza Federico II of Svevia, the Ursino Castle stands. Built at the behest of the Svevel Emperor, it is now Catania’s most iconic museum. Inside, you can be fascinated by the Roman and Greek artefacts, metal engravings and the Art Gallery which includes paintings of great artistic value. The castle often hosts temporary exhibitions.
In Piazza San Francesco, inside the historic Palazzo Gravina Cruyllas, is Vincenzo Bellini’s house-museum, where a large collection of prints and autographed scores of the great composer are preserved, as well as his original harpsichord.
The same building houses the Emilio Greco Museum where there is a collection of lithographs and etchings of the artist. In front of the building is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi at the Immaculate where some of the Characteristics of the Feast of St. Agatha are preserved. Along Via Vittorio Emanuele is the former Benedictine convent of San Placido, inside the 18th century cloister you can still see the ruins of a balcony of the Platamone Palace, now home to the Culture Directorate of Catania.
Continuing in this direction you can admire the remains of the Greco-Roman theatre and those of the Odeon. To the north, the Church of Santa Maria della Rotonda, originally a Roman bath. Traces from the 2nd century BC are found in Piazza Stesicoro, in the ancient Roman Amphitheatre, which welcomed up to 15,000 spectators. For a more modern theatrical experience, you can admire the Teatro Massimo Bellini in the square of the same name.
Via Crociferi, deserves special attention for its late Baroque style, declared by Unesco “Heritage of Humanity”.
Here you can admire the beautiful churches of San Benedetto and San Giuliano. Other wonderful examples of baroque are the Church of St. Francis Borgia, attached to the former jesuit convent.
The Church of San Nicola l’Arena is located in Dante Square, whose facade was never completed and the adjacent Benedictine Monks Monastery, one of the largest monastic complexes in Europe, extremely interesting for the fine Baroque ornaments of its balconies and windows, as well as, for its two inner cloisters, which show splendid lodges.
Messina is a city and provincial capital located in north-eastern Sicily, on the western coast of the eponymous strait. It has an area of 213.7 square km and a population of 227,424 (as of 2020). The old port is surrounded and protected by a strip of land in the shape of a sickle, called Penisola di San Raineri, ending with Punta San Salvatore. The earliest settlement probably lay at the foot of the Monte Gonzaga, while later communities established at the edge of the port and on the Penisola di San Ranieri. Severely damaged by an earthquake in 1783 and totally destroyed by another quake in 1908, Messina was later rebuilt to a controversial urban development plan in 1911.
After a considerable decline in population between 1981 and 1991, the city underwent significant recovery in the last decade of the 20th century, following a major shift to the tertiary sector, with urban and functional diversification. It is a leading hub of the larger Messina-Villa San Giovanni-Reggio Calabria conurbation, and a major thoroughfare between the two sides of the strait. The local motorway system connects the city to the urban network of the island and, especially, to Catania and south-eastern Sicily. The port of Messina is a key transit hub from across the strait, especially for ferries. The most active sectors are shipbuilding, chemicals, metalworking and food. The port is a lively centre for both cargo and tourism. Messina is also a leading university pole.
The city was founded as Zancle (meaning ‘sickle’) by Greek settlers from Chalcis, in the 8th century BC. After the battle of Lade (494), the Ionians of Asia Minor (Samians and Milesians), who were escaping from the Persians, reportedly accepted an invitation from the people of Zancle to found a city on the island (in Calacte). As suggested by Anaxilas, the tyrant of Rhegium, they eventually settled Zancle, which was then under the rule of the tyrant Scythes. Anaxilas then took over the city himself, and took there Dorian settlers from Messenia. Zancle only regained freedom in 461, when the tyrants of Rhegium were finally overthrown. The city, however, was inevitably divided into Ionian and Dorian feuding factions. The Dorians prevailed, and named the city ‘Messana’, after their native region. It was conquered and destroyed by Carthaginians in 396, as punishment for taking part in the siege of Syracuse in 406. In 393, Dionysius prevented further retaliation from Carthage. After the death of Dionysius, Messina belonged to Dion, Hippo, Timoleon and Agathocles throughout the 4th century. In 289, following Agathocles’s death, it was conquered by the Mamertines. Defeated by Hiero II (264), they first asked for help from the Carthaginians. For fear of falling into their power, they later appealed to the Romans, who landed on the other side of the strait, forcing the Carthaginian leader to abandon the fortress. After resisting an offensive return by Hiero II and the Carthaginians, Messina became a civitas foederata (meaning an allied community). The city experienced a period of prosperity, which, however, slowly declined in the Imperial age. A bishopric under the Byzantine patriarchate starting from the 5th century, it was a stronghold of the Goths and the Byzantines, and was occupied by the Muslims in 843. The Normans seized it in 1038, and ultimately conquered it under count Roger (1060-61). From then onwards, Messina was one of the leading centres of their expansion in the Mediterranean area. Under the Swabian rule, it continued to thrive despite the absolutist policy of Frederick II, and the military occupation by Manfredi (1258), which aimed at curbing the city’s desire for independence. Messina rose up against the Angevins, headed by Alaimo da Lentini, and took part in the Sicilian Vespers (1282), for which it became a capital under the Crown of Aragon. In the early days of the Spanish rule, the city prospered as the port was expanded, the university was founded (1548) and the military arsenal was strengthened. In the 17th century, though, the city rose up against Spain (which was then at war with Louis XIV) in 1674: with the help of the French, it held off the Spaniards until 1678. The city was then after the rule of the Savoy (1713-18) and of the Habsburg (1720-34). Charles of Bourbon tried to return the city to its past splendour, but the plague outbreak of 1743 and the devastating earthquake of 1783 thwarted his attempts. After being the centre of the Sicilian military defence against the Kingdom of Naples (1806-15), under the Bourbon restoration the city was subject to the interests of the British, the French and the Spaniards in the Mediterranean area. Messina took part in the 1820-21 uprisings, offering General F. Pepe its help to win back the rebel regions, as well as in the liberal movement of 1821 and 1847. In 1848, it engaged in the revolution of Palermo, with the population resisting General Filangieri. In 1861, Messina was the last stronghold of the Bourbons to fall in Sicily.
It was destroyed by the 1908 earthquake, which hit a 10-degree intensity on the Mercalli scale and was followed by a tsunami, all of which caused around 80,000 victims. It was later rebuilt, but suffered extensive damage from the bombing of World War II, especially during the Anglo-American invasion of 1943.
Messina has one of the oldest culinary traditions in Sicily, which mostly shows Greek influences. Fish and seafood are the staples of local cuisine. Traditional specialties also include sugar confections, such as almond paste and candied fruit, along with craft ice creams and slushies (the popular “granita”).
Traditional fry-shop specialties include the iconic arancini, the hallmark of street food – pointy saffron rice balls stuffed with meat sauce, peas, soft cheese and prosciutto or mortadella.
The city of Messina has many dishes in common with Calabria, on the opposite side of the strait, while meat and cheese are more common in the province. The importance of extra virgin olive oil, which is much widely used than in the rest of Sicily, also for frying food, speaks to the close relationship with Greek cuisine. In the Nebrodi area, where the farming tradition is stronger, there are three SlowFood specialty products (‘presidi’), in addition to the famous salame Sant’Angelo di Brolo: olio di Minuta (olive oil), Suino nero dei Nebrodi (pork) and Provola dei Nebrodi (cheese).
The following is a detailed list of traditional products from Messina:
- Calia and simenza (toasted chickpeas and pumpkin seeds)
- Focaccia messinese
- Mozzarella in carrozza (fried mozzarella)
- Pidone (pituni)
- San Daniele (savoury pie)
- Taiuni (roasted veal offal)
Appetizers and side dishes
- Cucunci di Lipari (caper fruits)
- Insalata di pesce stucco (stockfish salad)
- Insalta di polpo alla messinese (octopus salad)
- Dried tomatoes
- Provola dei Nebrodi (cheese)
- Salame Sant’Angelo di Brolo
- Salame San Marco
- Doppiette di melanzane alla messinese (eggplant and noodle rolls, with ‘ricotta salata’ cheese)
- Macco di fave (broad bean purée)
- Pasta con le alici (pasta with anchovies)
- Pasta ca muddhica (pasta with toasted breadcrumbs)
- Pasta con le sarde alla messinese (pasta with sardines)
- Pasta con cavolfiore alla messinese (pasta with cauliflowers)
- Pasta ‘ncaciata (cheesy pasta bake, a specialty dish from Mistretta)
- Spaghetti al tonno alla messinese (tuna pasta)
- Spaghetti Cozze e Vongole (with mussels and clams)
- Agnello alla messinese (lamb roast)
- Baccalà alla messinese (codfish stew)
- Braciole di carne alla messinese (meat rolls)
- Braciole di pesce spada alla messinese (swordfish rolls)
- Carne infornata (baked meat)
- Ciusceddu or truscellu (meat pie)
- Costardelle fritte (fried Atlantic saury)
- Crespelle di neonata (whitebait fritters)
- Cozze alla messinese (mussel stew)
- Falsomagro (stuffed meat roll)
- Filetto di vitello alla messinese (veal fillet)
- Ghiotta (stockfish stew)
- Impanata di pesce spade (savoury swordfish pie)
- Involtini di pesce spada alla messinese (swordfish rolls)
- Ntuppateddi alla messinese (snails)
- Piscispata a gghiotta (swordfish stew)
- Polpette di baccalà (codfish balls)
- Sciusceddu alla messinese (meatballs in broth, topped with ricotta)
- Stocco alla ghiotta (stockfish stew)
- Sarde a beccaficu alla messinese (sardine rolls)
Desserts and pastries
- Balò di ricotta (fried panzerotto with a sheep ricotta filling)
- Bianco e nero (choux pastry, like profiteroles)
- Buccunettu (pastry with pumpkin compote, traditionally from Sant’Angelo di Brolo)
- Brioche col gelato (ice cream sandwich)
- Cannoli (also with a ricotta and chocolate filling)
- Cassata (less sweet than the one made in Palermo)
- Crespella di riso (rice fritters)
- Cuddura (sweet bread)
- Frutta di Martorana (marzipan sweets)
- Niputiddata (traditional Christmas pastry stuffed with dried figs, whole almonds, candied fruit, cinnamon, cocoa and sometimes cooked must)
- Latte dolce fritto (custard fritters)
- Nzuddi (cookies)
- Pane di cena (soft sweet bread)
- Panino al burro (soft sweet bread)
- Sciauna (fried ravioli with a fine ricotta filling)
- Pasta reale di Mistretta (marzipan confections)
- Pasta squadata (sweet dough fritters)
- Pasticciotti (sweet pastry with a meat filling)
- Marzipan lambs
- Pesche dolci alla messinese (peach-shaped dessert)
- Pignolata al miele (fried dough balls with honey)
- Pignolata glassata (fried dough balls with icing)
- Piparelli messinesi (almond cookies)
- Riso nero (rice and chocolate cake)
- Sfinci di carnevale alla messinese (carnival fritters)
- Sfinci di riso, or sfinciuni (rice fritters)
- Sfinci di zucca gialla (pumpkin fritters)
- Sospiri di monaca alla messinese (sponge cake with a ricotta filling)
- Spicchiteddi (Christmas cookies with cinnamon and cloves, traditionally from the Aeolian Islands)
- Stella di Natale (with marzipan and candied citron, sometimes the filling is the same as in the niputiddate)
- Torciglione messinese (fried or baked brioche, filled with ricotta and chocolate chips, with custard or with chocolate custard)
- Torrone gelato (soft nougat)
- Vastidduzze (cookies with almonds and raisins traditionally made for St. Joseph’s day)
- Viennesi (rum-infused and custard-filled soft brioche)
- Zeppole di riso (rice fritters)
- Zuccarati (cookies dusted with sesame)
Points of interest
Largely destroyed by the 1783 and 1908 quakes, as well as by the bombing of World War II, the city’s wealth of ancient monuments was later rebuilt or renovated. The cathedral was consecrated in 1197, and its three Gothic portals have survived undamaged to date. Inside, there are beautiful sculptures by Goro di Gregorio (1333) and A. Gagini (1525), a chapel by G. Del Duca (1589), and the remains of 14-century mosaics along the apse. The bell tower (1933) sports a wonderful astronomical clock. Major landmarks also include the restored churches of Annunziata dei Catalani (12th-13th century) and S. Maria degli Alemanni (13th century, built by the Teutonic Knights), the Renaissance fountains of Orion and Neptune (G.A. Montorsoli) and the monument to John of Austria (1572), the winner of the battle of Lepanto. Designed by L. Borzi in 1911, the modern city has an urban plan with straight roads crossing at right angles. There are beautiful majestic buildings here, such as the Town Hall (A. Zanca, 1920), the Courthouse (M. Piacentini, 1928) and the new Palazzata (G. Samonà, 1930). Equally noteworthy is the Regional Museum.