Visit Ancient Theater in Catania
The archaeological area in the centre of Catania on the east coast of Sicily includes a well preserved theatre, an odeon and a small museum. The site has been occupied since prehistoric times and in 728 BC a Greek colony was founded here and the town was called Katane
Explore the Ancient Theater in Catania
Italy This Way comment: although the ancient theatre at Catania is in a less imposing location than others in Sicily such as those at Taormina and Tindari, it is still interesting to visit when you are exploring the town.
The first remarkable thing you will notice about the ancient theatre is that it is well hidden! You could easily walk along Via Vittorio Emanuele II just metres from the site without being aware it exists, but a small doorway at number 266 on this street gives entry to a very substantial ancient archaeological site.
The main structure here is the theatre, built in the first century AD and still substantially intact. The original theatre was the same shape but smaller, and built at the bottom of a hill. In the second century AD the theatre was extended to include a third ambulatory (the passages under the theatre), more seats were added and the stage was enlarged: the theatre could seat about 7000 people.
During the following three centuries further small changes were made, and the theatre was converted to hold water so that aquatic shows could take place. It was finally abandoned in the 6th century AD, and during the medieval period in Catania houses were built on and around the theatre.
The remaining structure was also damaged by the important earthquake that struck south-east Sicily in 1693. From the 18th century onwards, these houses have been removed, excavations carried out and repair work has taken place, especially during the last 30 years, and the theatre is now substantially as it was in the second century AD.
The theatre is an impressive site, and walking along the ambulatories you can almost hear the footsteps of the Ancient Romans who walked here 2000 years ago...
The other important building you will see at the Catania archaeology site is the Odeon, the round building behind the theatre and reached along a passage and staircase. This building would have been used for small scale events such as poetry recitals, as well as rehearsals for larger performances.
Less is known about this building, although it is believed to date from the 2nd century AD, and it is thought that it originally had a roof.
The odeon had a smaller stage than the main theatre, with seating for about 1500 people. This structure was also largely absorbed in surrounding buildings during the medieval period, most of which were removed during renovation work in the second half of the 20th century, although access is still rather restricted.
The final part of your visit to the ancient site in Catania is a small museum that contains various marble statues recovered during the excavations. These are also interesting, especially the theatrical busts with their faces in a series of curious theatrical expressions.
Various performances are also held in the ancient theatre: ask for details at Catania tourist office at the time of your visit.
Of course, the ancient site is just one of the attractions in this important Sicilian town: see our Catania guide for more information.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.