Aci Sant’Antonio origins date back to the Middle Ages but its current layout is the end result of many eruptions and earthquakes that have profoundly changed its appearance.
The town lies on the south-eastern slopes of Etna, situated on the edge of a lava shelf, 4 km from the Ionian coast. The last thirty years the population has almost tripled. Along with the residents the business activities have grown exponentially, too.
Its origins date back to the Middle Ages but its present structure is the result of many eruptions and earthquakes that have profoundly changed the appearance. The so-called “village of Casalotto, not far from the current urban center, was built in 1169. Following a strong eruption, accompanied by violent earthquakes, the inhabitants left the coast and retreated in these regions, rich in forests and abundant timber. In 1408, the small village was threatened by a lava flow that stopped nearby. From This episode comes the local devotion to Sant’Antonio Abate, who became patron and protector of the place. The near church is dedicated to the saint whom the locals gathered to call for help and protection. On 11 January 1693 a terrible earthquake of yet unknown proportions destroyed the entire eastern Sicily coast , recording several deaths. All the churches were destroyed, except that of the Fathers mercenaries. Aci Sant’Antonio owes is reconstruction to the prince Riggio.
1700 is considered the golden age for Aci S. Antonio. During this time painters, sculptors, architects, important Architecture Maestros took turns for the reconstruction and beautification of the main buildings. The church of “S. Antonio Abate”, of “S. Biagio” and “S. Michele arcangelo”, the Reggio Carcaci and Puglisi Palaces, the Gagliani Palace are some of the valuable works built in these years . During the 800 the rich land-owing middle class consolidated its developing exhanges with the nearby city of Catania. The Sicilian cart was widely used, decorated with expert master carters.
Among the assets of natural interests is the Forest of “Santa Maria La Stella”, which is part of the larger “Bosco di Aci”. Its importance stems from the fact that this is the last forest of the foothills that features such an extension and environmental continuity. The site is subject to protection by the European Union as a Site of Community Importance (SCI).
The village economy is mainly based on the cultivation of citrus, verdello lemon specifically, and on viticulture. There are also numerous horse and sheep farms. Especially in recent decades wine and food companies have been established. However, the local strong point remains craftsmanship. Aci Sant’Antonio is the last town in the province of Catania to produce wagons, carriages and objects made of lava stone.
Among the most anticipated events by the population and by tourists is the feast of the Patron Saint Anthony on January 17 and, in summer, the celebrations of 17 August; Award of the Sicilian Carretto is part of a cultural marathon of three days dedicated to local crafts and the promotion of local products as the festival of the eggplant; street food, and the last week of June, the “Spring in music.”