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NATURE IN THE CITY | Etna Walking Rural


Path A

Places Camporotondo Etneo, San Pietro Clarenza, Mascalucia, San Giovanni La Punta, Tremestieri Etneo
Difficulty medium
Travel Time half a day

Camporotondo Etneo, San Pietro Clarenza, Mascalucia, San Giovanni La Punta and Tremestieri Etneo are located from 4 to 10 km from the Ionian coast and are well connected by public transport. Car trips are favored for the possibility to cross almost without realizing it, one after another, the municipalities that fall in this area, dominated by the the woods of Monte Ceraulo. Etna, not far from here, is the principal point of reference, and the view of the volcano and its contours change according to the common being crossed.

Immersed in a simple geographic layout with a strong naturalistic appeal, the solution to enjoy these places is to cross them all, maybe thinking about all the pleasant stops in the many local food shops knowing that, in less than 30 minutes, you are from one side to the opposite of these municipalities.

Starting from the central square of San Giovanni La Punta in 12 minutes (4.6 km) you can reach Mascalucia, the most populous area with about 31,020 inhabitants. From here, in less than 10 minutes (about 5 km) you arrive at San Pietro Clarenza and, taking another 5 minutes (2.4 km), you will reach Camporotondo Etneo.

There is a green line between these towns at the the south-eastern sides  of Mount Etna. The woods of Monte Ceraulo is much more than an environmental trail, it is one of the landmarks of the Etna area, where nature and environment come together to give life to one of the last glimpses of the picturesque Mediterranean vegetation.

Oaks, broom, flora and fauna are very specific elements are great tourist attraction due to the rich vegetation and the magnificence of nature, where the dominant element is the volcano. Here, as elsewhere, the Mongibello has left its traces in the still visible lava flows . Seventeen hectares of land (between the road denominated “Cow” and the provincial road for Nicolosi) can be crossed by the two accessible trails, to immerse yourself in a dense mesh of beautiful wildlife.

Among cyclamens and beautiful orchids live different animal species that you may encounter during a relaxing walk which may last the whole day: the wild rabbit, the hedgehog, and more: the finches, warblers, the colorful butterflies and even owls . And for those who appreciate their fragrance and flavor, this is also an area full of delicious mushrooms.

The volcano, as mentioned, is a strong element of identification throughout the territory. Here “the mountain” also expresses itself in its devastating force. On the way to Pedara – Massannunziata you can admire what is left of the ruins of the “Fortezza del Grifo” in the “Ombra” district , built before the second half of the sixteenth century. It is an old farm from the seventh / nineteenth century, now in ruins but which testifies to the secularity of the sites. From Early 1700 is also the “Caseggiato Mannino” on San Pietro Clarenza “Piazza della Vittoria”. The oldest building in the village is now home to the town library. In these sites of historical and rural the proximity of territory and the towns it will make easier moving and travelling by public transport.

For family-related activities we suggest you to stop in the town park in San Giovanni La Punta, it has 18,000 square meters of parkland, now equipped with a playground. You can not leave this part of the  Etna back country without having appreciated and known to the agricultural and handicraft, the main production segment of this area, first. The production of cereals, vegetables, olive plantations and viticulture are favored by the presence of volcanic soils that here give each product their unique flavors.

After a healthy walk in the woods, you can taste the products of excellence of this territory representing an experience not to be missed: the Olives from Nocellara Etnea, the “Monte Etna” extra virgin DOP Olive Oil from Camporotondo and San Pietro Clarenza, and green pistachio from Bronte di Camporotondo. The agricultural delights of this area include production of citrus, almonds, Camporotondo prickly pears, citrus fruits, cereals, San Giovanni La Punta wine, the “Ombra” wine from Mascalucia and olives, citrus fruits, and wine grapes from Tremestieri Etneo.

The wealth of an area so voted to craftsmanship is dictated by the presence of companies that, over time, have retained their authentic expression. Wood, clothing, manufacturing and product processing such as sausages and preserves, wrought iron and lava stone up to the ancient production of lace, embroidery and carpets (Mascalucia). Here the sicilian spirit finds its pride and strength in the production of characteristic Sicilian carts, and lava stone products from Tremestieri Etneo. The local “Caretto” artworks emerge in a triumph of color and folklore to the point of becoming the symbol of the historical and sicilian cultural heritage, so unique in the world.

Receptive structures of this area are mainly concentrated in the towns of San Giovanni La Punta and Mascalucia. In the former you can stay in B& Bs, holiday farms and hotels of the place. The increase of the hospitality structures has allowed to significantly increase the number of tourists from almost 33,000 in 2010 to over 40,000 in 2011. In the nearby Mascalucia there are numerous lodging options available for tourists. Resources to stay in close range are available in Tremestieri Etneo and San Pietro Clarenza.

Sea, hills, countryside and mountains. All at close range and scope for tourists. The tranquility of the rooms, the genuine products, the attractiveness of these places, outside the traditional tourist routes, allow you to live a relaxing holiday and to focus on destinations of undisputed historical and cultural interest, but yet unexplored by the large number of tourists regulars. The path offers, at the same time, the ability to choose and visit the  most renowned places from  Taormina to Aci Castello, situated just a few kilometers from here.

Path B

Places Valverde, Aci Catena, Aci Sant’Antonio, Aci Bonaccorsi
Difficulty medium
Travel Time half a day

Timpe, marine terraces, shelves lava, lapilli and old lava. This volcanic scenery and dense vegetation, fresh water springs from natural sources are  main characteristic of an area also known as “delle risorgive“. Foothills  Municipalities related to these natural phenomena are Valverde, Aci Castello, Aci Sant’Antonio Aci Bonaccorsi (195,000 inhabitants overall).

We are on the south east of Mount Etna, at a distance from the Ionian sea ranging from 4 to 10 kilometers.

You must visit the protected areas and sites of outstanding natural beauty: the Natural Reserve of Timpa (Acireale) and the Forest of Aci in Santa Maria la Stella (fraction of Aci San Antonio).

The entire area is rich in historical and rural sites worth knowing: The Torre Casalotto, a fortified farm two and a half kilometers from Aci San Filippo, a hamlet of Aci Catena; the archaeological site of Contrada Reitana in Acicatena; the Roman Baths of “Santa Venera Al Pozzo”, dating from the fourth century AD . The magnitude and historical importance is given by the remains of a thermal plant, once a source of sulphurous waters with strong therapeutic qualities.

Villa Casalotto is also part of the Aci San Antonio territory , evidence of a garden park of great interest that kept some exotic species and other forest vegetation. It’s a picturesque area, where there are palm trees, cedars, limes magnolias.

In order to admire the breathtaking views of the Ionian coast we must reach the rural complex of Vignagrande Acicatena, where lies the hermitage of Sant’ Anna (district of San Filippo). Here is a church and a convent, dating back to 1751. Inside there are the cloister and there are the Mediterranean garden, while the church preserves some art treasures and some paintings of the Madonna and Child with Sant’Anna. On leaving you should give a look over the roofs of the villages below and admire, on clear days, on one side Calabria and on the other impressive mount Etna.

Among the archaeological sites there is one in particular near the district Casalrosato and Montedoro Valverde. Comfortable shoes are required in order to cross narrow winding streets of lava stone and ivy and to admire the small country churches in the Montedoro district.

Then we walk past bougainvilleas and beautiful villas overlooking the sea of the Cyclops. We go down between the “trazzere” surrounded by nature, where you arrive at the spring of Casalrosato. Following that we reach “a funtana”, a mystical place where, from an old wash house, the flowing water is considered miraculous and where, according to legend, here appeared Madonna. Today the place is a pilgrimage site during the anniversary days . Higher up, the fraction Carminello, a place of residence which retains the magical atmosphere of an old rural village. This An area that preserves its energy and is crossed by small villages, hamlets and corners of life that preserve its history and traditions. If there is a unique feature that distinguishes this area, it’s the climate: subtropical up to 150 meters, hot-tempered over 150. Even the temperatures are affected by these peculiarities with substantial differences depending on altitude and distance from sea.

It’s therefore a good idea to wear heterogeneous clothing for visiting these places.

The naturalistic aspect is certainly what arouses curiosity, due to the lava cliffs that form an uninterrupted rope from Riposto to Catania docks.

Wherever  you look, the view is far as the eye, and suggests that nature here has dictated lifestyles, habits and customs.

There is a clear border between the mountains, the coast and the sea, in the midst of which lives a really hard-working community, full of scents, flavors , so different in the short span of a few kilometers.

A brilliant mix dictated by nature, where the climate meets a habitat that has produced a rich vegetation , very specific for andthe herbal sector. Here the nature provides the best to mankind for the crafting of natural remedies , herbal products useful in relieving the symptoms for most diseases: the Sea Fennel, with strong diuretic and digestive depurative properties, also very rich in vitamins or minerals; The Statice Virgato, rare medicinal plant, and therefore almost impossible to find, but with great purifying and diuretic properties; the Caccialepre, bitter plant with purifying blood properties, and the Ginestrino Cliff, stimulant for the renal function.

Euphorbia Arborescens is a kind of marine aerosol which is located in the inner part of the scrubland, a herbal remedy to use for the treatment of sores, dermatitis and psoriasis.

Here we are in the famous Riviera dei Limoni, in the midst of which grows and it produces the typical green lemon, a  real treat of Sicily and the Ionian coast (Acireale, Aci Bonaccorsi Aci Catena , Sant’Antonio)

Here we are in the famous Riviera of the lemons, in the midst of which grows and it produces the typical green lemon, a  real treat of Sicily and the Ionian coast (Acireale, Aci Bonaccorsi Aci Aci chain , St. Anthony)

Inland areas viticulture, olive growing and crops of cereals and vegetables are particularly developed. The Acireale turnip called “Trunzu di Aci” is a product that identifies this area, as well as the flavors of yesteryear that find themselves living in delicious ricotta cheese, salted or baked from Acireale, Aci Bonaccorsi and  Aci Catena. It is the main ingredient that gives its touch to one of the most relevant dish of the whole Etnean area: the “Pasta alla Norma“.

Craftwork, with its thousand faces, is a real highlight in this corner of Sicily. The wrought iron parts, especially the manufacture of wagons carriages in Aci S. Antonio are a local peculiarities. Be sure to visit the Regional Museum of the Sicilian Cart, especially beacuse Aci S. Antonio is home to of the School of “Carretto” decoration. Here lives also one of the noblest  traditions: the production of Sicilian puppets in Acireale, which affects the whole “Acese” area .

Arts and crafts share a poorly defined border. The love for the land and passion for fine flavors have allowed the growth of several companies operating in the production of carbonated beverages and distillation.

And speaking of drinks and products of excellence here’s a real gem: Beer lovers unite, because in Valverde there is a growing culture that particularly appreciate this drink, thanks to the proliferation of quality breweries . The attention to blonde and red beer has created a festival that takes place every year, usually in September.

Staying in these countries that are waiting to be discovered will be a real alternative at the traditional holiday. An appeal dictated by the simplicity and the relaxing rhythms by day, but pressing in the evening and night hours thanks to the many opportunities and entertainment offerings. Receptive structures are family run, typical of the place. The choice is between the B&Bs in Aci Sant’Antonio, Valverde or Aci Catena.

Leave behind any hesitation, and fill Yourself a backpack and little else to reconcile with nature in an area unable to disappoint its guests.

Path C

Luoghi Camporotonto Etneo, San Pietro Clarenza, Mascalucia, San Giovanni La Punta, Tremestieri Etneo
Difficulty medium – low
Travel Time half a day, back and forth

Behind the legend of Aci and Galatea lives the most noble of the Ionian cities: Acireale. We are in the land of myth, culture and the Baroque. On one side, the city looks out over the suggestive rocky ridge of the Timpa and from the other side it looks north towards the mountain, or Etna. Standing out on its coast are the delightful fishing villages of Santa Tecla, Santa Maria La Scala, Santa Caterina, Stazzo, Pozzillo and Capomulini.

Each village is worth visiting, as is the throbbing city centre. Start your walk from Villa Belvedere at the northern entry to Acireale, one of the most charming garden parks of the Riviera of the Cyclops where we can admire the coast that stretches from Syracuse to Taormina. Other things to see include the Zelantea Library and Art Gallery and the Greco- Sicilian and Roman coins collection in the nineteenth century Palazzo Pennisi di Floristella in Piazza Lionardo Vigo.

Acireale is also known for its beautiful Mardi Gras celebration that draws tourists from all over Italy thanks to the papiermaché artists who create the most beautiful carts in Sicily and for the enviable pastry and food tradition. Here granita, brioches and ice cream are an institution in all of the bars in the historic centre. Enjoy them at breakfast, lunch or dinner, sitting comfortably at the outdoor tables. The Festival called “A nivarata” which is held every year at the end of May is dedicated to this icon of Siciliy and Aci tradition. It recalls the origins of granita and those people who once went up in the mountains to get the snow to use along with citrus fruits (lemon or orange juice) as a base for thirst-quenching sorbets.

Staying in Acireale is easy with its many accommodation facilities. Plus, just a few kilometres from the city centre and far from the hustle and bustle of the city are ancient fishing villages that create a fantastic tourist itinerary. Don’t leave Acireale without having seen the Puppet Theatre Museum, open all year (at the entry to Capomulini) by historic puppeteer Turi Grasso and his family. It is a unique theatre that collects precious puppets and memorabilia from the late nineteenth century recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage.

The Mills Trail