Catania has had a long and eventful history, having been founded in the 8th century BC. In the 14th century and the Renaissance, Catania was one of Italy's most important and flourishing cultural, artistic, and political centers, having witnessed the opening in 1434 of the first university in Sicily.
Today, Catania is one of the main economic, touristic, and educational centers in the island, being an important hub of industry, thus gaining the nickname, "European Silicon Valley".
Catania is located on the east coast of the island, at the foot of the Mount Etna. Its position at the foot of the volcano was the source both of benefits and evils to the city. On the one hand, the violent outbursts of the volcano from time to time desolated great parts of its territory; on the other, the volcanic ashes produced fertile soil, adapted especially for the growth of vines.