Bustling Catania Fish Market

January 22, 2014 / Places
Catania, Sicily

Located at the tip of Italy’s ‘boot’ and surrounded by the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas, Catania is a wide-spread city at the base of active Mount Etna. The city is filled with ancient Greek and Roman ruins, churches, piazzas, a huge port, and markets. The fish market is a must-see, as you can really get a feel for Sicilian life.

From the duomo di Catania, the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, with its incredible bluish-grey baroque architecture (and the Fontana dell’Elefante in the center of the piazza), head down the south-west corner of the piazza to the bustling fish market.

It’s lively, boisterous, colorful, smelly, and gritty with an electric atmosphere. This is one of the biggest fish markets in Italy, and only the freshest of fish and seafood is found here. And what a selection! Octopus, squid, clams, mussels, eels, sardines, swordfish, anchovies, tuna, and other varieties of fish. You name it, they have it.

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Fish and seafood are displayed on make-shift tables using buckets, plastic bins, and cutting boards that have been stained with blood over the years. Knives and cleavers are used to cut and trim, which look too dangerous to handle, except in the hands of the seasoned fishmongers.

Stand in one spot and watch the spectacle. Locals window-shop as they walk along the carts, stands, and buckets filled with things splashing around in the water, while fishmongers yell out, “Ho il pesce freschissimo!” (I have the freshest fish!), “Ho i prezzi migliori!” (I have the best prices!), all the while gesturing with their hands in animation in order to attract potential buyers. I imagine many have their favorite fishmonger.

Walk carefully, as it’s a wet, messy scene with buckets of fish on the ground, debris and fish parts spewed all over the area. I watched one man clean squid, all by hand, tossing the inedible parts into a bucket, sometimes missing it and landing on the ground. Best not to wear open-toed shoes here! At the end of the day, the entire area is cleaned up and ready for the next day’s market.

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In the same area on the upper level are lots of other food stalls selling cheese, raw and cured meats, vegetables, including a full spread of various antipasti; even foods prepared to be simply placed in an oven to bake. I saw a restaurant chef shopping, gathering the freshest ingredients for his menu. Where else would anyone shop?

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If you are lucky to enough to spend time in Catania in a rental apartment, do your daily shopping here and be sure to haggle with the fishmongers, but do take the time to enjoy the spectacle of this bustling fish market.

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by Monica Pileggi

Contract Specialist, Photographer and Traveler. You can view the photographs that documents her travel impressions on www.pileggiphotography.com

12 Responses to “Bustling Catania Fish Market”

  1. Mary Lou Branson

    The fish market in Pozzuoli, Campania, is so much like this one. It’s just grand to go there!

    Reply
  2. Joanne De Cecchis

    Just came back from Catania and its fish market. Have so many photos. Our grandfather went to Bronx Terminal for his supplies for his grocery store during 1920s-1960s. He came from Ragusa, Sicily.

    Reply
  3. One of my favorite markets in Italy. Have had the pleasure to visit twice. It is one of those things you have to do if you visit Catania.

    Reply
  4. Ginny Siggia

    On a fine Sunday afternoon I watched families, from youngsters to grandparents, fishing in the River Nera. The fish were beautiful and many. One gentleman was showing a little fellow how to bait the line with a piece of eel. Somewhere I have a photo of a bucket of live and kicking, er, slithering, eels. Grandpa kindly showed me how to kill the eel. Thankfully he didn’t ask if I wanted to bait the line.

    Reply
  5. I watched an episode of the Martha Stewart Show once, when she was visiting this very market in Catania, walking around making faces and looking skeeved. The younger fishmongers noticing this, purposely started to shout louder…I’m glad her show is gone.

    Reply
  6. I remember visiting the Catania fish market many times with my wife and newborn daughter back in 84 and 85 when I was stationed there during my navy days. Loved going to that place and just do some “people” watching!

    Reply
  7. I just love going to the markets when I travel around. It’s one area where you can really watch the locals go about their daily lives.

    Reply
  8. Carol Annis

    Loved the article and your photos! What a great place that market was!

    Reply
  9. I love all the food markets in Italy! I haven’t been to this one, but your photos make me want to go. I can just imagine all the tasty fresh fish dishes on the menus of local restaurants too!

    Reply
  10. Anita Fiorini

    Wonderful photos, feels like you are right there with them. When I was a
    little girl in Endicott NY, we had a man going around in his cart yelling
    “pesce”. My mother always bought some and it was delicious.

    Reply

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