Acireale | Etna Walking Rural

Municipality of Acireale

The name Acireale was given only towards the second half of 1600.
Previously it was called Aquilia or Aci Aquilia. 

Acireale or Jaci, in Sicily, is the second most populated city in the province Etnean, having a population of 50,000 inhabitants. Known around the world for its carnival, for the Baroque achitecure and for its spas, it is located 15 km away from Catania. Its territory includes a series of picturesque seaside hamlets with its docks, including Santa Maria la Scala and Capo Mulini.

HISTORY

Acireale The name was given only towards the second half of 1600.
Previously it was called Aquilia or Aci Aquilia. The name comes from Greek mythology: the legend of Aci, a shepherd that fell in love with Galatea. The latter was also contended by the Cyclops Polyphemus who, out of jealousy, crushed his rival under a rock. At the beginning of 1400 there were around the cathedral only a cluster of houses. By the end of the century the town began to acquire the appeareance of the city that would become in the course of the 1500, as the most important center of the Ionian area. The continued attacks by sea by the Saracen pirates led the people who lived near the coast to move to a more sheltered location.The Population and consequently economic and political growth suffered no interruptions in the 1500 and onwards, despite the famine and plague. In that period the merchant class staeted consolidating,meanwhile several corporations and religious orders started settling, leaving an indelible mark that even today it is often referred to as “”the city of a hundred bells.”” Before the dramatic earthquake that leveled churches, monasteries and cultural heritage, it had recently begun to define its urban structure: the Cathedral Square in the centre, the starting point of a radial road network system: the Galatea and the St. Martin streets, and two narrow and winding ways, the current Corso Umberto and Corso Savoia. In a few years Acireale turned into a construction site, taking the appereance of a baroque trasure thanks to the work of the painter Pietro Paolo Vasta and architect Paolo Amico. In the 100 the silk industry started taking place. Today Acireale lives mainly on agriculture and tourism. Symbolic products of the territory are the Lemon Verdello, the Kohlrabi (said Trunzu Aci), the “”Ricotta di Sicilia””, salted or baked, and the Etna Wine (DOC).

CULTURAL ASSETS

The baroque architecture of Acireale has been recognized by UNESCO World as an Heritage Site. There are countless assets of architectural merit in every corner. Starting from the City Palace, with his façade, turning it in an unique picturesque Duomo square. The town coat of arms rules over the municipal portal. Next to it, the masks and face-shaped shelves, which combined with those of the nearby chapel of St. Venera, look like astage for popular outdoor drama. The imposing cathedral was built in the 1400, where originally rose a shrine dedicated to the “Vergine Annunziata”. Around the 1600 it adopted its present-day Latin cross structure with three naves on pillars. The largest portal with elegant Corinthian columns, built in Baroque style, sports one of the most ancient city emblems. The prospectus built in white stone from the “Basilica dei SS. Pietro e Paolo” in Syracuse is clearly a work by Pietro Paolo Vasta , built in the first half of the 1700. The most iconic symbol of the “Acese” Baroque is no doubt represented by the Basilica di San Sebastiano, near the Lionardo Vigo square. Statues, friezes, gargoyles, cherubs with garlands, built in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake of 1693″ should be considered nothing more as an a joyful hymn to life. Corso Umberto is also worth mentioning , it’s the main street that connects the Duomo to Piazza Villa Belvedere, the largest garden in the city, so called thanks of the breathtaking view from the balcony down the main avenue. In every corner are visible the mansions built by the rich “Acese” bourgeoisie that moved here around 1800. Above all, The outstanding Nicolosi and Figuera Palaces, known noadays as Puglisi-Vigo.

LANDSCAPE ASSETS

The town was built on a plateau, above a terrace of lava origin, called the Timpa, overlooking the Ionian Sea. It is characterized by volcanic rocks and steps from various fault lines where grows a dense vegetation and several Mediterranean plants. The entire area is rich in water sources and green and citrus groves. The place is inhabited by small birds of prey, such as warblers, typical bird characterized by a black hood and gray-white plumage. At the foot of the reserve lies the village of Santa Maria La Scala, also accessible via a staircase that crosses zigzagging the central part of the Timpa (called the chiazzette). Due to this peculiarity the headland was used as a military stronghold. Among the many villages of Acireale stands the village of Santa Tecla, consisting of a series of picturesque streets reaching to the sea. In summer Santa Tecla is filled with tourists and visitors.