Sicilia - Places to Visit - Acireale
This town stands on a terraced slope of volcanic origin between the last spurs of Etna and the Ionian coast, Its fame comes from its thermal springs, also of volcanic origin, which have given rise to modern spas.
The Duomo dated form the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries, but was remodelled in the eighteenth century. The seventeenth century faade is the work of G.B. Basile and is marked by a fine portal in alabaster (seventeenth century). The majestic interior has it crossing and choir richly decorated with frescoes, the work of eighteenth century artists (P.P. Vasta, A. Filocamo).
In the Piazza del Duomo, the centre of the town, we find also the Palazzo Comunale, of the second half of the seventeenth century, in typical Catanese Baroque style and the Church of Santi Pietro e Paolo, a seventheenth century building with the characteristics of a basilica, the distinguishing features of which are the lively lines of the faade, a splendid piece of architecture on two tiers crowned by ornaments, the elegant columns that divide up its space are of twin design on the inside.
We should not neglect to visit the Villa Belvedere, the public gardens, which offer us an admirable panoramic view of Etna and the sea. A pleasant walk through an impressive and beautiful landscape along the steep slopes of the "Timpa" takes us to the pleasant fishing village of Santa Maria la Scala.
Aci Castello is the first important centre on the picturesque Riviera dei Cicopi, which lies to the north of Catania and the population of which has lived for centuries by fishing, using even now their traditional methods. In relatively recent times the locality has undergone considerable development as a summer bathing and holiday resort, while in the surrounding countryside intensive citrus cultivation prospers.
In the second half of the twelfth century the town was razed by a disastrous earthquake, which forced the population to take refuge in neighbouring localities; developing as centres, these places preserved in their names the recognizable prefix "Aci".
The distinctive feature of Aci Castello is, precisely, the Castle; founded by the Normans and built on top of a dark basalt rock in the second half of the eleventh century; it is memorable for its situation sheer above the sea.
The near by town of Aci Trezza is known as the scene of the events in Giovanni Berga's famous novel I Malavoglia. It is also a popular bathig resort in a very charming natural setting. A few hundred metres from the shore the basalt shapes of the faraglioni or "Scogli dei Ciclopi" (Rocks of the Cyclops) rise from the sea; according to tradition, these rocks are the huge stones that the giant Polyphemus threw at Ulysses.
The largest of these rocks, once known as the Island of Lachea, was donated by a private citizen to the University of Catania, which has installed there a marine physics and biology research station.