When you're in Italy, it can be surprising just how different the way of life is.
On our first morning in Catania, we were awoken by the sounds of trumpets, drums and excited cheers. Normally on a weekend, we sleep in until about 11am (which kills me, I used to be an 8am bunny) but this time we were up bright and early thanks to these guys charging about with their cereo (yes I finally learnt what they're called!)
Breakfast was a homemade ciambella cake, chocolate and vanilla marble (and I definitely detected some orange, yum!) Our hosts had the most fantastic selection of teas, even sending me home with my own pouch of Sicilian green tea which has flavours of fennel and mint. I could have edited this photo to save face but I often look far worse in public after a few lengths in the pool.
Catania, they tell me, is actually two cities; the old and the new. When they were fed up with the old one in the 17th century, they just threw their hands in the air and cried "to hell with it" (literally) and sent it packing underneath the earth, building the new Baroque-style city on top.
Lol just kidding, Etna and earthquakes completely destroyed the old one.
Luckily Etna does little more than puff a bit of smoke and dribble a bit of lava now but even if it blew, it would take around two months for the lava to reach the city.
We spent the morning mooching about the city and looking at the streets and churches.
The city was throbbing with sound and movement as excitement and anticipation for the festival for Sant'Agata built. We found a bit of quiet in the Chiesa di San Benedetto.
To get into the main church, you have to go via a ticket office (make sure you have your EU passport or student ID to get ticket discounts if you're under 25!) From the street it isn't that obviously signposted but it's well worth hunting out.
The most famous feature of the church is the staircase leading up to the main chapel for its ornate door and angel statues.
Walking through that beautiful doorway will bring you into one of the most beautiful churches you are likely to have ever seen.
Whilst I do appreciate the churches on my own home soil, I also love the extravagence of Catholicism. All of these beautiful flowers and paintings and chandeliers! I wonder what the churches of England looked like before Henry VIII got his hands on them?
The frescoes depict the life of Saint Benedict. Whilst we were in there admiring the art and architecture, the room filled with the sound of females singing. Unseen to us and behind grates which you can see either side of the gold star above, a choir of nuns sang their prayers. It was a truly beautiful moment and one that had me fondly thinking "only in Italy!"
Afterwards, we came back outside and went for a wander before going home for a delicious meal of homemade pasta, roast potatoes and broccoli frittatas and a game of pass-the-Pinky (their adorable and slightly crazy Schnauzer!) Pictures to come soon :)