View an array of stunning religious artworks and a collection of rare historic books at this imposing medieval castle.
Walk around 13th-century Ursino Castle to discover fine paintings, an extensive archaeological collection and several fine Baroque murals. Learn about the castle’s history as a fort, royal home and prison, and the structure’s changes following Mount Etna’s eruption.
Originally built on the coastline overlooking Catania, Ursino Castle dates back to 1239, when the city was Sicily’s capital. The imposing structure, with its square shape and high round turrets on each corner, was one of the few buildings to survive the eruption of Mount Etna, though its strategic position was somewhat changed following the event. Lava flow from the south left the castle 1,660 feet (500 meters) from the coast.
Stand in the Piazza Federico II di Svevia and gaze up at the castle’s four round towers. Walk around the exterior and notice four smaller, rounded turrets. Look for the area where the moat once was, now largely filled in by lava from Etna’s eruption.
Go through the grand main entrance and head to the Library of Ancient Books with an extensive collection of first-edition copies of Christian literature from across Europe. Look toward the ceiling to see a number of intricately painted religious murals.
Continue on to the Pinacoteca gallery to appreciate artwork dating to the 14th century. Look for Antonello di Saliba painting of The Virgin on a throne and a portrait of S. Crisanto by Pietro Novell from 1637. Farther inside the castle, find the archeological collection of the Prince of Biscari. Highlights here are the ancient vases and mosaics vividly depicting famous scenes from Greek mythology. Stroll around the gallery to see one of Italy’s largest collections of rare coins and a display of painted Sicilian carts created by local artists.
Wander through the castle grounds and imagine how life would have been for the Sicilian soldiers, noblemen and prisoners who inhabited the castle over the centuries. Climb to a turret and enjoy great views back toward the city.
Ursino Castle is located in central Catania. It is open daily and admission is free.