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Sicily: Fishing for deals from land and sea in La Pescheria

A vegetable vendor takes a break before the market gets busy for the day in Catania, Sicily.

Sicily’s second largest city, Catania, is home to a vivid, energetic and pungent fish market, or “La Pescheria” in Italian.

La Pescheria is easily Catania’s top destination as men, while setting up for the day, decapitate tuna and swordfish among piles of shrimp and lustrous mounds of sardines on ice.

Charismatic merchants peddle their wares in local Sicilian dialect as customers weave through the narrow alleyways and small sun-shaded squares that form the fish market and its adjoining food market.

The odor emanating from the market can be distinguished a block or two away, exciting the taste buds of any seafood lover close enough to catch a whiff. And there just so happens to be several restaurants residing in close proximity to the market where the freshness of the food cannot be beat. My wife and I tried one such restaurant that couldn’t be any closer to the market and we actually picked the exact sea creature to be eaten straight off the ice or out of a glass tank.

Beat the crowds and find parking by arriving to at the market before it opens around 7 a.m. and leave well before it closes around 2 p.m.

I was able to find an excellent parking spot just outside the park next to the market near Catania’s central square, Piazza del Duomo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you’re not an early riser, I’d recommend taking a taxi or riding the bus.

I was impressed by the friendliness of the merchants as they took the time to pose for photographs when asked, give directions and even warn of possible thieves.

Easily overlooked — as Catania rests below Europe’s largest volcano, Mount Etna — La Pescheria is well worth spending a morning taking in the sights and smells of the market and topping the visit off with a succulently fresh meal.

And if you must see Mount Etna, you’ll have plenty of time to drive up after lunch!

demotts.joshua@stripes.com

Directions

La Pescheria is about 25-30 minutes from Naval Air Station Sigonella. From the air station, take the SS417 toward Catania for about six miles, then keep right at the fork, following signs to Catania and merging onto the SS192 for just over two miles. You’ll go through two roundabouts following signs for Aeroporto Fontanarossa before seeing signs for the city center, “Centro,” and then Piazza del Duomo. Driving in Sicily can be an adventure; use a GPS to save a bit of stress.

Times

The market opens around 7 a.m. and closes about 2 p.m. Closed Sundays.

Costs

Eating at the restaurants near La Pescheria will cost between 15 euros and 45 euros per person.

Information

More information on Catania can be found in English on these websites: www.turismo.provincia.ct.it/English, and www.thinksicily.com.

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