Sicilian Details from Catania

While accompanying my husband on his work trips to Catania, I noticed how many little water pools dotted the harsh lava landscape.

Since I spent most of my time standing out in the sun to help by holding up one of those measuring poles you see surveyors using on the roads, I didn’t get much time to explore. I did get a fabulous tan, and this photo of one of the small handmade dams, which I’m sure must be like an oasis in the harsh lava landscape outside of Catania.

The landscape surrounding Catania always strikes me as particularly harsh and unforgiving. While the fertility of agriculture is evident, there is this strange mix of fichi d’india cactus, olive trees, pistachio and market gardens with the odd palm tree.

The countryside in Catania province has a distinctly ashen grey colour palette; even the water in the pool has taken in the dark army green tone of the other foliage. It would be pretty intense to live here, I think, to have a tiny house in the middle of the lava must be filled with extremes, from the heatwaves in the summer to the endless rain in the middle of winter.

Yet this countryside offers up such fertility to Sicily; the plain of Catania provides most of the agricultural wealth of the island, together with the Conca d’oro around Palermo; it has been one of the most sought after terrain for wealth. From ancient times Sicily’s fertility has been craved by each of the thirteen significant conquerors of the island.

I’m fascinated by the colours of Sicily; they are so intense. The island is 25,711 square kilometres and is packed with so many variations in landscape and architecture.

Each of the seven provinces has its own colours and qualities, all in contrast to one another. For example, where I live, the province of Messina is quite lush, filled with hazelnuts, olive trees, and endless springwater fountains (it’s where Fontalba water comes from).

While if you move toward Catania and Etna, everything becomes covered in black lava stone. There is very little water at the centre of the island in Enna and Caltanissetta provinces; the landscape is harsh and dry, with golden wheat fields in the summer.

If you go to the southeast towards Syracuse in the heart of the Val di Noto, the landscape is still fertile, and the towns each have their own distinct muted colours, from golden stones to faded whitewash and pale pink faded paint.

There are new colours and textures to explore wherever you go in Sicily.