Catania is the second largest city of Sicily with 306,464 inhabitants, has the second highest population density on the island and is the capital of the province which bears its name.
It is located at 37° 31'N 15° 04'E on the east coast of the island, half way between Messina and Siracuse and is at the foot of the active volcano Mount Etna.
It was founded in the 8th century BC by Greek colonizers from Calcide in Eubea led by Evarco, used to be called Ætna, after the volcano, c. 480–461 BC and has also been known as Katane. It was extensively destroyed by earthquakes in 1169 and 1693 and by lava flows which ran over and around it into the sea.
The first Sicilian University was founded there in 1434 and the city's patron saint is Saint Agata.
The city has been buried by lava a total of seven times in recorded history, and in layers under the present day city are the Roman city that preceded it, and the Greek city before that. Today, the tops of the immense Greek and roman amphitheatres are at street level and in several places the adventurous can descend into the numerous and uncharted tunnels under the city, although the perils of finding pockets of poisonous gas or being found down there by nasty people make this highly unadvisable.
Under the city runs the river Amenano, visible in just one point, on the south side of Piazza Duomo.
It has a commercial seaport in the city, an international airport to the south, a central train station on the main lines Messina-Siracuse, Catania-Gela and Catania-Palermo, as well as the privately-owned small-gauge Circumetnea railway which runs for 110km from Catania round the base of Mount Etna, attaining the height of 976m above sea level before descending to rejoin the coast at Giarre-Riposto to the North. In the late 1990s/early 2000s the first line of an underground railway was built under the city, extending the Circumetnea from its stop on the north side of town to the Central Railway Station on the southeast.
Over the last decade, Catania has seen an explosion in its nightlife. In 1992 the city streets were almost deserted from 8pm until 8am but ten years later, thanks to more permissive licensing, restaurants, cafés and bars are open and the streets and piazzas are lively until 3 and 4 in the morning.
Catania is also the Italian city with the highest number of theaters per square kilometer, with numerous professional and amateur theatre companies based there.