Picturesque and medieval, inserted in a contrasting context with wild “trazzere”, prickly pears and pure water waterfalls, the Natural Trail of the Mills is one of the more surprising routes that this area has to offer.
We are in the valley that stretches between the district and Reitana Cape Mills, in the Aci Area. To understand fully the characteristics though we should immediately clear any misunderstandings and make very clear that here we’re not in the Netherlands.
To give value and the exact size of this path, which exists between past and present, it was inaugurated recently at Aci Catena the “Le vie dell’acqua” cycle tour , a track 10 km long, suitable for everybody, including families with children. Put together, the background elements give life to an impressive scenery in other areas of Sicily: an old farmhouse, fortified, a series of water mills, a warehouse with his washboard lava stone, an important archaeological site, roads and streets paved in lava and expanses of citrus groves. Plus the ancient Roman baths and a precious portal of 1600 and streets lit by colored murals. The frame of this natural setting is the majestic Mount Etna.
The water mills once built in the hamlet of Aci San Filippo, precisely in the Greek-Roman Reitana valley, made up the historic route where, from 1422 to 1615, every year between July and August was held the Free St. Venera Fair (so called because during the time that it took place any penalty and restrictions for participants were suspended).
The cause behind the creation of about 15 mills was the great abundance of water around the 1300. What’s left today is a tourist route, very interesting from the point of view of history and landscapes.
We start from Reitana Plains, where there are the Cuba springs, source of the Casalotto aqueduct, used for irrigation of citrus orchards of the Ionian coast.
Reitana square is known for lupins manufacturing, thanks to the presence of water sources.
The whole area of Reitana, spared from Etna eruptions, is of great archaeological interest due to the discovery of coins, vases, lachrymatories, tombs and other artifacts.
The ruins of the first mill, called “Spezzacoddu“, “neckbreaker” (after its violent guardian) are on the left, before the road to Vampolieri. The ruins of the second mill once housed a school house instead.
On the “Pescheria” plain there is the second group of “Funtanedda” springs , with an abandoned dome . This is a drained spring, meanwhile “Pescheria” is still active instead.
Spanneddi and “Paratore” are the names of two other springs located in the nearby countryside, where in 1817 was discovered a Roman villa with a Pegasus Mosaic.
The third mill, called “Aunt Nedda“, sister of Don Neddu, nowadays known as Scardaci, is the only restored structure that can give the idea of the old mill.
Here we are in a strategic point where the whole “Acese” area is a natural oasis and where you can admire the beautiful waterfalls up to thirty years ago enlivened the mill wheel, one of the last functioning. The sound of running water within this mill is dictated by the three waterfalls that then continue between the papyri to reach the other mills. Nearby, in via Paratore, is located the “fondaco”, once a place of refreshment during the night for the carters who went to these mills for grinding grain. The picture is completed by a wash. Freshwater crabs, eels and frogs inhabit the waters in this part of the torrent.
A modern pedestrian bridge over the railway, is the gateway to the fourth mill “U Mulino A Via“. You shold visit the church of S.Andrea nearby, in the “Baracche” district near Acireale.
The charming “Mills Trail” continues along the fifth Mill ruin, called “Don Pippino“, active until the sixties, the eighth, a house in present day (across the street Montevago) and finally the ninth,which became a residential area. In the area called “A chianata di Vigo“, we can reach meets the last spring, the “mutaddisa“.
From here we are located in proximity of Capomulini, one of the few protected natural harbors of Etna coast, where stands the last mill, who become a house.
Once in the small and cozy village, be sure to stop at one of the many restaurants with a terrace on the sea and enjoy the fish specialties of the Ionian Sea.
We are in the area of the myth of Aci and Galatea.
Water, in all its forms, has been the source of life throughout the territory of Aci San Filippo, San Nicolò, Reitana, Torrente Platani Plain and the Mills Valley.
Having easy water supply in every seasons of the year has always allowed the survival of local people. This area is the point of convergence of sevral important water flows for a good part of the southeast flank of Etna. Even today the area is full of wells, springs (also thermal) and ducts so much that in the Torrente Platani floodplain, and across the district Reitana, there are still the most fertile Etna soils.
Lemon groves and orchards are favored by a microclimate milder than the rest of the surrounding area, this element gives higher productivity compared to the entire area of Etna. A combination of factors that give rise to the many different labels of excellence for DOC products (Etna wine) and PGI (like Cherries).
Another life-essential element was clay, evidence of the geological vicissitudes. The “Olivo S. Mauro-Torre Reitana e dei Mulini” hill, was, until a few years ago, the area for picking clay that gave rise to a flourishing industry of clay-based products dating back several millennia ago .
Creativity, productivity, history and art.
The combination of many elements has allowed this area to let tourism from worldwide grow, offering a range of choices that values of the historical, cultural and natural fortune. The “Mills Trail” is one of the most interesting touristic sites enriching a territory full of traditions.