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.