Of all the things that I wanted to do in Sicily prior to actually coming here, walking through Catania's fish market at sunrise was weirdly at the very top of my list. Like, number one. I think it's because I watched an episode of Parts Unknown where Anthony Bourdain came here and had an amazing time walking through the market with somebody's Sicilian grandmother. Meanwhile, he had a bad experience trying to go snorkeling near Palermo and spent half the rest of the episode getting drunk and complaining. That's the problem with Bourdain; I love the guy, but if he's having a bad time, you're gonna have a bad time too. I mean, have you seen his episode on Buenos Aires? It's pretty depressing.
**Edit: I wrote this before his suicide... now I feel kind of weird about it because that episode on Buenos Aires deals a lot with mental health, but I'm going to keep it in here anyway.**
ANYWAY, this fish market was the *one big thing* that I wanted to do while I was in Catania. And the first thing I want to show you is where this thing is, because it took me some time to figure this out. This area is actually right off of Piazza Duomo, but it's not an obvious route to walk, so it's doubtful you'd just stumble upon it. Here's a map to you can see exactly where it is...
If you want to come here, it's very important that you know that this happens exactly at sunrise. If you really want to catch this place in action, it's best to get there before 7:00am. The first time I attempted to come here, I slept in and showed up at 7:45-ish, and it was mostly over. I got some decent pictures, but it was clear that things were winding down. It was frustrating.
The next day I set my alarm for the TRUE butt-crack of dawn, and got here before the sun rose. The walk across the city was chilly and dark, but I arrived at Piazza Duomo well ahead of sunrise, with some spare time to take some incredible pictures of Mount Etna towering over the city. Here are a couple of those shots...
From there, I sat down for a quick cappuccino and pastry. Despite the early hour, the waiters were yelling at each other in animated Sicilian-Italian, with animated voices and waving hands. I couldn't help but chuckle. From there, I whipped out my trusty camera, and headed over towards the fish market.
With the blood and guts of the previous morning's catch dried into the cobblestone, I walked and observed as beleaguered and bleary-eyed fishermen arrived in the dim light with huge amounts of sea creatures packed in ice. Slowly but surely I started seeing massive swordfish and tuna appearing on the chopping blocks as the sky turned a brighter hue of red. Many of the store fronts within the radius of this market began to open up as well. Most of these brick-and-mortar stores were butchers, selling cross sections of lamb, pig, and cow. On the perimeter of this market, produce stands began to pop up, selling things like tomatoes and purple cauliflower. However, it was the seafood that occupied the most central locations of this market, mostly confined to mobile / pop-up tables covered by long expanses of umbrellas.
As the sky continued to grow lighter and the sun began to peak through the cracks in the buildings, the marketplace grew more crowded and more lively. Once this place had wiped the sleep from its eyes, it was a bustling little area. I continued to walk through the corridors with my camera, snapping photos as I went. I was a little bashful at first, but once I got into the swing of things, nobody seemed to mind.
Instead of describe it all to you, I'll just let you see it for yourself. We'll start from the earliest shots at sunrise and go from there. Here's a few highlights from my camera roll in the fish market of Catania, Sicily...
These are some of my favorite photos that I've taken. There are a couple in here that are, from a technical standpoint, some of my best work. Photographers who take their craft much more seriously than I do wake up at this hour every single day to catch the light. I often have such limited time in the places that I visit that I am forced to shoot all day, but these sunrise shoots always yield the best results. Catania was a beautiful city and I am really glad that I had the opportunity to catch this market in action.
I had arrived in Sicily with this fish market at the top of my list. It was very cool, but it was definitely not the highlight of my trip, as I had thought it would be. It was just real life. Looking back on it, this was a very meaningful experience to me, but trust me when I tell you that there is a LOT more in the queue from Sicily that is going to make this market look kind of boring. This slice of Catania will always have a place in my heart though. ❤️
Up next, we're going to move on from Catania and drive south to the city of Syracuse (Siracusa). Hold onto your hats folks! And in the meantime, here's one of my favorite Italian-American songs. It's more so about Naples than Sicily, but whatever. I was gonna use somewhere in this series, and this is the article that felt right.