Catania Secret Discovery Tour
A proposal for the creation of an ethno anthropological tour, in support of the San Berillo district of Catania. It originated from an idea from Gaetano Russo.
Inspired by the book “Davanti alla Porta” (In Front of the Door) by Francesco Grasso, alias Franchina.
Welcome to San Berillo
San Berillo is just as you see it. A neighbourhood where things are naked and exposed to sunlight. Where the truth is right in your face, without a spin of words, and always has a price. Welcome to San Berillo, the “Borgo delle Belle” district of Catania.
After the earthquake of 1693, Catania had an urban development in San Berillo that remained unfinished because of the history of the Duchess of Misterbianco. The area remained popular for small artisans and simple people, but unfortunately also was a refuge for mafia, gangsters, smugglers and prostitutes.
This story is a paradigm of Catania’s history; a city harassed by the interest of so many powers that its development was blocked in a modern way. Often we talk about the “gutting” of San Berillo as a metaphor and interpretation of all Catania. If you obverse closely when strolling through the streets of this neighbourhood, you can see the history of the elephant city, its won and lost bets, the relationship with delinquency and the powerful, and even a bit of the soul of many Sicilians, who always have great dreams… but unfortunately they are easily sold to the first bidder.
Today, in this forgotten neighbourhood, prostitution is still practiced. The Houses of Tolerance, declared illegal by the Merlin Law in 1958, were first replaced by houses “occupied by the prostitutes” and finally disappeared in 2000.
Some of these houses are still home to the “transvestite deemed” historic, because after 30 years, today the oldest profession in the world is still being practiced.
In these streets, ruined and bombed during the Second World War, you can visit the home of the writer Goliarda Sapienza, Via delle Finanze, the della Belle square, ethnic restaurants and the Senegalese workers’ chambers, a self-taught Catholic church worshiped by prostitutes, and typical Sicilian courtyards.
San Berillo, the red light district of Catania, is one of the most fascinating and mysterious areas in the city. The secret Catania tour project aims to create an artistic journey, a journey of the soul, aimed at the realization of an urban theme park dedicated to this alternative story of Catania. It starts in the winding streets of this decadent district, and follows the stories and episodes collected In the book “Davanti alla Porta” by Francesco Grasso.
In San Berillo you can experience a free, existential and artistic reflection on the changes of sexual customs in Italy and Europe, just by strolling through the streets of this neighbourhood with a guide and one of the historic characters of the village: Franchina or Wonder. Franchina (Francesco Grasso), disguised and intellectual Catholic with his book ” Davanti alla Porta” offers an opportunity to reflect on the change of sexual habits in contemporary society. He proposes a free reflection on the phenomenon of prostitution and a deepening of the rights of homosexuals and prostitutes, as well as changes in the feeling of love.
The ultimate aim of this is to generate new appreciation for this cultural and tourist district, thus upgrading of the area through the participation of artists and individuals with a heart for San Berillo, while maintaining its original social identity and its character of freedom and social tolerance.
A visit with Franchina the “Borgo delle Belle”, accompanied by the volunteers of the PanVisiOn Association, you walk through the streets of the neighbourhood and discover the hidden history of Catania in the following stages:
- Tree of Life – Piazza Goliarda Sapienza (monument of peace and interreligious dialogue), based on Jewish, Christian and Muslim meditation by Gaetano Russo together with Franchina, Amira Alamoudi and Imama Kheit Abdelafid.
- Graffiti of San Berillo – street art by Luca Prete and friends (see attached map)
- Museo Re.Ba. – small museum being completed
- Goliarda’s House of Wisdom – it’s good to read the art of joy, and stroll around San Berillo by reading the pages of the novels of this Catanese anarchist writer.
- The Sanctuary of San Berillo – Catania’s history from 1693 to present day. A story of a “crippled unfinished”.
- History of ancient crafts and Catania servitudes – a leap in the past of Catania, to imagine how San Berillo was in the 800’s.
By booking the tour you will meet Franchina, Wonder, Blue Angel, Desy and Ramona. With discretion and intelligence you can build on the topics covered in the Franchina’s book “Davanti alla Porta”, a book that also inspired the director Maria Arena to produce the feature film “Gesù è morto per i peccati degli altri” (Jesus died for the sins of others). The book was quoted in numerous other documentaries and both local and national newspapers.
At B&B Globetrotter in Catania in Sicily we will assist you with booking your tour.