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Paternò is a place of mystery. Not in the strictest sense of the term, but it is a city with a thousand faces and none of them seems to be the real one. Powerful independent fiefdom at the time of the Normans (but it had been inhabited since the times of the Siculians, who founded a castle here called Hybla Gereatis), a rich center of power in the Aragonese and Anjou era, it experienced a long period of degradation between 1950 and 1990. Today it is recovering fame and beauty, also focusing on tourism and in particular on the places called “Salinelle”, miniature volcanoes that erupt mud and attract the curiosity of many.

The way “to Adernon”

The name Paternò seems to derive from the mispronunciation of the phrase “via per Adernon”, the current Adrano. It cannot be denied that the town is located right on the commercial route that has always connected Catania to Adrano and therefore “per Adernon” could be the root of P-Adernò.

According to other studies, more romantic but also more logical, the name derives from Petra Aetnaion, or “the rock of Etna”. And judging by the importance that lava stone plays in every construction of the old town, this explanation is more likely.

paternò2 (1)Paternò and its castle

The glories of Paternò’s past are summarized in the beautiful castle that dominates the city from the top of the hill. It is actually a “donjon” or a habitable defensive tower, therefore much smaller than a castle and of different (military) use. However, the Paternò donjon also became a noble residence as soon as the Norman count Roger, who had built it in 1072, donated it as an inheritance to his newly married daughter.

Since then, several nobles and even royals have been hosted inside the tower, a mighty square building made of lava stone. The ground floor, which you enter through a pointed arch portal, leads to four rooms: the chapel of San Giovanni, the Guards’ Room, the Prisons and the Vestibule. Via the main staircase you reach the large “Hall of Arms” where the “largest mullioned window in Italy” (perhaps in Europe) stands out…! From there you can access four further rooms, also characterized by panoramic windows, although smaller.
From the castle, but also from the lawn located alla round it, you can admire a spectacular view of the city with Mount Etna in the background.

What to see in Paternò

In addition to the castle, an obligatory stop on any visit to Paternò, there are many monuments that dot this baroque town. Almost all of them are churches or convents. Also, near the castle stands a church, the so called “matrix” (Santa Maria dell’Alto), built between the 11th and 14th centuries, in addition to the monumental cemetery. Also worth visiting are the church dedicated to Santa Barbara, the church of the Annunziata, the convent of Carmine, the church of the Pantheon, San Domenico, Cristo al Monte, Cristo Re… Among many ancient churches, the most modern (1937) church sanctuary of the Consolation must be remembered. Don’t miss to also admire the Ancient Doors of Paternò, the Torre dei Falconieri and the Scalinata della Matrice (18th century).

Volcanic Paternò

Paternò is surrounded by primitive and powerful nature. The Simeto river, which flows impetuously through rocky gorges rightpaternò2 (2) nearby before widening and invading the Catania plain, cuts through fields planted with oranges. The blood-red oranges typical of this area take all their characteristics from the rich volcanic soil.

The Salinelle are the expression of this volcanic Paternò! The small volcanoes that erupt mud and saline water are both in the San Biagio fields, and on the bank of the Simeto river, and – the most suggestive! – in the city center, in front of the municipal stadium. These are the most fascinating ones, especially for the view of Etna you can enjoy from here… and for the periodic “whims” due to which, at times, the small volcanoes erupt even in middle of the street or inside the courtyards of houses!

Reaching Paternò…

From Catania: take the Strada Statale 121 towards Adrano, with a direct exit at Paternò; from Palermo, take the A19 motorway, exit at Gerbini and continuing towards the SS 121; from Messina, A18 motorway to Catania, then ring road with Misterbianco exit and then SS 121.

Catania’s Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) is just 25 km from the city, with a travel time by car of approximately 35 minutes.
In the city you can stay in B&B facilities but there is no shortage of tourist farmhouses scattered throughout the area. (photos by G Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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