Not only one of Catania’s most prized buildings, but also one of Europe’s largest Benedictine Monasteries and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s little surprise that the Monastero dei Benedettini, otherwise known as the Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena, is among the city’s top attractions. Founded in 1558 but almost completely rebuilt following an earthquake in the 18th century, the vast complex is renowned for its stunning architecture, an amalgamation of works by various Sicilian architects.
Today the monastery is home to the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania, the Church of St. Nicolò and the Museo della Fabbrica, a fascinating museum, housed in the Vaccarini-designed cellars and kitchen, that chronicles the building and architectural design of the complex. Additional highlights of the palatial Monastero dei Benedettini include Giancarlo De Carlo’s spectacular Terrace of the Night Choir, the remains of a Roman domus, a huge meridian clock and a series of landscaped courtyard gardens.
The Monastero dei Benedettini is located on Piazza Dante in central Catania and is open daily from 9am-5pm. Guided tours run every hour and cost €6 per person.