The large and bright “Piazza Università” (University Square) is
dominated by the rigorous mass of the University building; this
prestigious institution was founded in 1434 on an initiative of the King
Alphonse of Aragon and remained for a long of time the only
University in Sicily.
The history of the present building begins in 1696, three years later the
earthquake that destroyed Catania, when the reconstruction work began
on the foundations of the ancient building. The courtyard is surrounded
by a most elegant two-storey portal designed by Vaccarini (1730). The
main façade was redesigned by the architect Mario Di Stefano after the
damage caused by the 1818 earthquake. The Catanese artist Giovan
Battista Piparo painted frescoes on the first floor and on the vault of the
rich “Aula Magna” (main hall), the walls of which are fully dressed in
damask. The works of the new University premises was completed
towards the end of the eighteenth-century when all the institutes and the
scientific laboratories necessary for the degree courses were ready.