Historic documentation on Acireale dates as far back as the eight century BC. The community was known as Xifonia by the Greeks, Akis by the Romans, and Jacilium from the Byzantine and Normans, and rose further south than today’s current site. The recent history of the city begins in 1693 when the disastrous earthquake which affected all of Eastern Sicily damaging the city, the reconstruction drew inspiratiom from Baroque architecture.
The evolution of the city through history has been accompanied by great cultural traditions, and a witness to this are the Acesi people which can be seen in the Biblioteca Zelantea (Zelantea Library) founded in 1671. This is one of the oldest and richest libraries in all of Sicily with over 200,000 volumes, including many rare editions. The library also houses the elegant horse carriage of the Acese Senate which catches the eye with its gilded wood carvings and paintings. Of great interest is the adjacent art gallery where one can admire works attributed to the school of Acireale and the school of Rubens. Examples of Acese school can be appreciated in many frescoes and paintings that enrich the churches and palaces of the city.
However, the “creativity” of Acireale is also expressed in baking and cooking. First and foremost is the lemon or almond flavored granita. The assortment of pastries is very rich and fanciful: the “pasta reale” which becomes a form of art with its compositions; the “cannoli” made with ricotta cheese, cream, or chocolate; and delightful and scenic glasses full of ice cream. The cooking is also very varied, but amongst the many different kinds of plates those which stand out the most are those of fish or with fish in them. This is due to the geographical position which Acireale holds as a key seaside and maritime city.
The disastrous earthquake of 1693 spared the gothic-Lombard church of St. Anthony of Padua, the 14th century church of Our Lady of Miracles in the cemetery, and the 16th century Shrine of Loreto. The subsequent reconstruction is exalted in the baroque Basilica of St. Sebastian, the buildings surrounding Piazza Duomo, the Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul, the City Hall, in the Benedictine monastery, and in the neoclassic buildings of Corso Umberto and Corso Savoia. However, forms of Sicilian Baroque architecture can be seen in homes, lava portals, and through the small alleyways.
Surrounding Waterfront Communities
An impressive terrace overlooking the sea opens the view over the gulf which ranges from Taormina to Siracusa. High interest is the church from the sixteenth century.
A characteristic fishing village nestled among flourishing lemon trees and the imposing lava cliff, it is known for mineral water sources. From Pozzillo to the west one can appreciate a great view of Mount Etna.
Interesting seafaring village extended in citrus groves, at the foot of a ridge of wild Mediterranean scrub, olive and almond trees.
S. Maria La Scala
This charming village of fishermen, intact in its original seafaring architecture, allows one to take a walk along the Chiazzette, an ancient walkway of large stone steps, interesting under the point of view of natural landscape. Along this ancient path of Spanish origin, is the “Fortezza del Tocco”, a fortress built between 1595 and 1616.
Hospitable coastal country immersed among citrus groves and high black cliffs of lava rocks from old lava flows.
Ancient Greek settlement that is situated within a wide gulf dominated by the beauty of the Lachea Island and the mythical large stones which legend says were thrown by Polyphemus (the Cyclops from the Odyssey) against Ulysses’ vessel. Adjacent to the village stretches the “Riserva Timpa,” a considerable environment for importance and natural landscape.
The Teatro dei Pupi (Puppet-show Theater) dates as far back as 1887 and is one of the most appreciated tourist attractions in Acireale. The play takes place during Charlemagne rule and follows the fascinating story of the French Paladins and the Muslim “infedels”. The knightly epic tells of heroic feats according to popular spirit. For the audience attentive and involved, the knightly puppet tells about his deeds and courage.
In ancient days the sulfuric waters were already used in the Xifonie Spa, where temperatures can reach 71°F/22°C. Signs of Greek origins can still be seen in those of Santa Venera al Pozzo. The spas were taken and subsequently re-developed by the Romans. The new baths at Santa Caterina are located within a vast area of evergreen citrus between Mt. Etna and the Ionic sea. The hot springs are used with mud, baths, and inhalations for the treatment of rheumatic diseases, osteoarticular, respiratory and skin diseases. The Santa Venera al Pozzo spa in Santa Caterina are open all year round and well equipped with hotel accommodations.
©carnevaleacireale.com – Translated by Michael Park and Janelle Serrentino – all rights reserved
Comune di Acireale: www.comune.acireale.ct.it
Acireale on Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acireale