Orto Botanico

The Orto Botanico dell’Università di Catania , also known as the Hortus Botanicus Catinensis, is a botanical garden in Catania. It is operated by the University of Catania botany department. The Orto Botanico was established by a benedictine monk called Francis Roccaforte Tornabene, with first plantings in 1862 of specimens obtained from other botanical gardens in Sweden, France, Naples, and Palermo.

Thanks to the donation of Mario Coltraro, it was enlarged in 1865 with a new area dedicated to cultivation of indigenous Sicilian species, and in the early 1900s further enhanced by creation of the Giardino Botanico “Nuova Gussonea” on Mount Etna for cultivation of native mountain plants. The main garden was damaged during World War II, and its great Tepidario greenhouse demolished in 1958, but in subsequent years it has been renewed.

Today the Orto Botanico has an area of 16,000 m² divided into two main sections: the Hortus Generalis which collects mainly exotic plants, and the Hortus Siculus which cultivates Sicilian species. The Hortus Generalis is divided into squares, set off by limestone steps, with two small greenhouses for succulents, a tropical greenhouse used primarily for reproduction of palms by seed and for cultivation of exotic plants, and three circular tanks for aquatic plants. The Hortus Siculus is divided into narrow rectangular flower beds bordered with lava stone, containing plants arranged by family. The garden also contains a handsome departmental building in neoclassical style.