Piazza Stesicoro 17. (Open Map)


The Roman anfiteatro [amphitheater] is today partially visible in the very central Piazza Stesicoro. Its external margins fall along present-day Via Penninello, Via Neve and the church of San Biagio. The visible part of the structure, built in lava along the northern extremity of the Roman city, corresponds to a section of the northern half of the ellipse. Here we can make out the external corridor, the first order of the façade and a system of arches and vaults designed to support the terraces and the upper corridor. Also distinguishable is part of the internal corridor, which led through a series of stairways to the cavea [terraces], part of the arena and its rear wall.

Not a great deal is known about the division of the cavea, and the few rows of seats that are visible seem to have been restored. As in other public buildings of Roman Catania, a remarkable decorative effect was achieved with the chromatic contrast between rows of lava blocks and brick and marble inserts. The heavy construction and imposing size (125 by 105 meters) are still evident today. With a capacity of some 15,000 spectators the Catanese amphitheater is the largest structure of this type built in Sicily. Its date is uncertain, but on the basis of the construction techniques used it must be later than the theatre and can therefore be attributed to the central decades of the second century AD. Between the fifth and sixth centuries the monument was in such a derelict state that Theodoric, at that time 10rd of Sicily, gave the Catanese permission to use it as a quarry. In the eleventh century some blocks of lava were reused in the construction of the cathedral and are still identifiable today in the external walls of the apse. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the fact that the amphitheater rested against the city walls and could potentially be used by enemies led the senate to order the destruction of its higher parts. Further damage was caused by the earthquake of 1693. Once again it was the Prince of Biscari who in modern times began exploration of the monument. In 1904, on the initiative of the mayor, Giuseppe De Felice, and under the supervision of the architect Filadelfo Fichera, the section visible today was excavated.