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The Acireale coastal area is characterized by the Timpa, a wildlife reserve overlooking the sea.

This lava ridge about 80 meters in height offers a wonderful spectacle of almost untouched wildlife. A real “terrace” on the Ionian Sea, about the size of 225 hectares, it’s characterized by dense vegetation and overlapping layers of different eruptive ages. An extraordinary place overlooking the sea and with almost unreal views, like those born from the erosion of wind and water over the rocks.

To enjoy the reserve there are only a few paths accessible to visitors, which makes the ride even more evocative.

Arm yourself with backpacks, hats, camera and hiking shoes and hike through these routes in close contact with nature and the Mediterranean vegetation.

Path A

Places Chiazzette, spiaggia del Mulino, Sorgente Miuccio
Difficulty medium – low
Height Difference 150m above sea level
Travel Time 2 hrs back and forth

It is one of the must-see trails known for its romantic appeareance and panoramic views. It is an old street in lava stone, built in 1700, which for over two centuries has been the link between Acireale and the fishing village of Santa Maria La Scala, rich in freshwater springs and home to a marina.

The small street, now called Via Tocco, is composed of seven bold winding roads and by as many piazzas – hence the Sicilian word “chiazzette” – bordering on the natural Timpa amphitheater. You can reach the center of Acireale, starting from Piazza Duomo and going along Via Romeo until the end of the road.

Then you cross an overhead bridge on the SS 114. Theoretically, you can get on the road with the national by car and leave it in a square just a few meters from the beginning of the descent; the only drawback is that there are only 2- 3 cars parks.

At the beginning of the path there is a small chapel. After a few meters, at the first turn, it stands the Tocco Fortress , an old Norman bastion against the raids of pirates. Built in 1600, it had the task of spotting any sudden attacks of the Turks coming from the sea.

The southern view shows a large stretch of coastline, with the green hill overlooking the sea and the cliffs of polished lava stone . The dense and typically Mediterranean vegetation covering this area sparks with color. Along the walls of the path take root capers, prickly pears and a sample of Robinia pseudoacacia.

The route is dotted with another exotic species: the “Gelso Da Carta” or Broussonezia, imported from Japan in the eighteenth century as a shade tree, while in the East it is grown to make ropes and paper (including paper money), since It contains an extremely resistant fiber.

Keeping going down we find the votive chapel dedicated to SS. Crocifisso della Buona Nuova, dating back to the early nineteenth century.

At the last hairpin bend, the road branches: to the right you proceed in a serpentine path for a last beautiful sloping stretch in the midst of a rich citrus grove, which reaches down to the beach of the S. Maria La Scala Mills, where you can see streams of fresh water under the reefs.

The water mill was once fed by a nearby spring of the town called “Miuccio”, where women once washed clothes and gathered clear water, risking their own safety in the event of pirate attacks.

Alternatively, if you go left, you will reach the main square of the town through a straight path. To the north of the village, accessible by sea, there is the “Grotta delle palombe”, which according to the popular imagination it was the loving shelter of the shepherd Aci and the nymph Galatea.

Path B

Places Acquegrandi
Difficulty medium – low
Height Difference 170m above sea level
Travel Time 2hrs back and forth

The path of Acquegrandi crosses one of the most intact and wild stretches of Acireale’s Timpa. It is a narrow little road rural, accessible from the village of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which ends at the sea through a descent with some points of difference in height more pronounced.

The entrance, marked by a sign of the reservation, is located in Via Acque Grandi, near the church of Nostra Signora dell’Aiuto. Having taken the trail it seems to cross a forest. All of sudden, the ivy even produces a roof on the path creating a tunnel. The aroma is that of the sea and the countryside. The high wall of lava stone, which is on the left of the path, gives the idea of a fort.

After about 200 meters you reach a viewpoint where there is a memorial plaque in memory of “Comrade Matthew”, a diver from Catania died of embolism during a dive in the underlying water. If you turn your gaze to the left you can observe the walls of Timpa overhanging the sea while to the right is the “Acque Grandi” beach and its “cocole”, stones rounded by the seawater action.

The path leads through a track bordered by ancient stone walls, covered by Hackberry, Eucalyptus, Domesitc Olive and Hedera Helix. The landscape is diverse, as well as the flora and fauna that inhabit the Mediterranean vegetation.

Before arriving on the beach you may encounter Elms, Buckthorns, Spurges, the Opuntia Ficus, Asparagus and Dianthus Adelasie, as well as extremely interesting volcanic crevices, as well as ancient lavas and tuffs baseline.

Path C

Places Acque del Ferro – Santa Caterina
Difficulty – Belvedere low
Travel Time – Belvedere 10 minutes
Difficulty – Acque del Ferro medium-high
Travel time –  Acque del Ferro 1 and half an hour, back and forth

To get to the rock beach where flows the springwater called Acqua del Ferro you have to start from Santa Caterina, a delightful village acese once named “Cavallari,” that develops between characteristic streets and lemon gardens.

If you take the SS 114, coming from Catania, you must first overcome the junction for Acireale South and then the gas station that you meet on the right. After a few hundred meters (about 300) you may notice a square that makes an entrance to an always open gate. Here you can read the sign “Baths of St. Catherine”, where you can park your car. Continuing on foot to the Piazza del Belvedere, from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view overlooking the Ionian sea, Taormina and the profile of the Calabrian coast. To the left of the square there is a small chapel dedicated to the Addolorata.

Also on the north side of the Belvedere you can see a small street (via Acqua del Ferro) through the middle of a cluster of villas, across a steep and unwieldy staircase of 400 steps, which descend to the coast. That’s where there is the freshwater spring called “Acqua ‘or ferru” because of the iron content of the water that gives the typical reddish color to the rocks. The path is not easy, it requires good health and a little practice.

However those with the above requirements can enjoy, along the descent, some secular examples of Carob Trees, shrubs and herbs typical of Mediterranean scrub located on either side of the stairs, as well as traces a fascinating chapter in the history of Etna, by the succession of lava flows and tuffs that characterize the Santa Caterina Timpa.

Once in the sea, you can see the reddish tufa, important vantage point for viewing for geology lovers and naturalists, and enjoy the lovely and wild rocky beach overlooking arc of Taormina and the boot.

Path D

Places Pietra Monaca  (currently not available)
Difficulty high near the ending
Height Difference 105m above sea level
Travel Time 2hrs back and forth

Another path to be taken within the Timpa, immense and wild monument in the open, begins near the hotel Aloha D’oro and reach the “Pietra Monaca” springs, so called because of the presence of a large boulder looking like the figure of a nun lying.

Those who simply want to admire from the ridge on which develops the extreme part of the route can walk the Via Pianetto and stand in the open space panorama overlooking the Timpa, otherwise you may want to take two paths leaving from close by to a group rural houses and a private house, on which is written “Villa Lina“.

If you choose to go north you can travel a narrow road with no outlets, among the scents and colors of Mediterranean vegetation. Alternatively, you can go down towards the sea along a steep, rocky path, sometimes difficult praticabilea due to the track degradation. Once on the shore you may remain impressed by the vivid colors and iridescent sea and the chance of seeing emerge from among the rocks a spontaneous example of Tamarisk, probably the only one along the coast of Acireale.

Nature in the City