1- Riviera dei ciclopi
The Cyclops’ Riviera, between Aci Castello and Acireale, shows the Etna lava flows with deformed rocks and steep cliffs guarding creeks from clear waters. There are lots of myths tied to this place: the most famous is the one that attribute the birth of the 8 magnificent Cyclops Rocks to Polyphemus who, blinded, detached these rocks from the Etna and threw them against Ulysses and his companions, while they were escaping from the Cyclops.
It is easily reachable from Catania by local bus or those which go back and forth between Catania and Messina; there is also a railway station in Acireale, although it is a bit off-centered.
Aci Castello takes his name from the Norman castle built in 1076 upon the lava rock that pushes out the sea and hosts the Civic Museum, which gathers archeological, from Paleolithic to Middle Ages, and naturalistic materials (fossils, minerals and a pretty botanical garden with plants, especially fat ones, of great value). The castle gives the name to the little hamlet nearby.
Aci Trezza is the fishermen’s village where Giovanni Verga set “I Malavoglia” and Luchino Visconti, taking inspiration from the novel, with his troupe and the precious collaboration of the inhabitants of the town, shot “The Earh Trembles” considered the masterpiece of Italian neorealism.
From Acireale you can easily get on foot to Santa Maria La Scala: a small village arisen around the fishermen’s marina, full of colourful fishing boats, at the slopes of the lava terracing called “La Timpa”. The Timpa’s blooming vegetation adorns the village and its black lava rocks seashore. You can also go to Santa Maria by car, but the path is more beautiful.
The evocative view of the Etna on the background and being a city sheltered upon a rock terrace overlooking the sea, have made Taormina a yearned-for destination by tourists from all over the world for centuries. The main attraction of the city, and probably of all Sicily, is the Greek-Roman Theatre that, for his convenient position overlooking the sea, allows to be half-seen a glimpse of the Sicilian coastline. Besides the theatre, however, there are other attractions such as la Cattedrale di San Nicola, Corso Umberto I and the little Odeon that surely deserve a visit.
Moreover, the area near Taormina is surrounded by wonderful beaches and little fishing villages: from Giardini Naxos to Letojanni and Santa Teresa di Riva, you will find many coves with wonderful shores of volcanic pebbles.
Along the Ionic coast, one of the most beautiful cities of Sicily is Siracusa, the core of Greek civilization. Its greatness was comparable to the ones of Athens, Rome and Carthage. Proof of its history are many monuments that are now part of the body of the modern city. Inside Siracusa there is a small Island, Ortigia, that guards temples of Greek age, such as the Apollo’s temple and the Athena’s one. The Island extends between the dry land and the sea, its coasts close up and shape two protected landing: the bay of the Piccolo Porto and the Porto Grande, at the feet of the Iblean Mountains. However, following the earthquake of 1693 most of these buildings were rebuilt in Baroque style giving the city a new guise, but leaving untouched the sensation of breathing the history of the Mediterranean by walking through Siracusa.
4- Ragusa Ibla
Classified as UNESCO World Heritage as a testimony of Baroque art, Ragusa stands in the South of Iblean Mountains. The city, surrounded by a green hills chain and crossed by the river Irminio, is subdivided into the higher and modern part and the lower one, Ragusa Ibla, risen up on the ruins of the old town and rebuilt, right after the earthquake of 1693, according to the ancient medieval structure. The Ibla neighbour offers more than fifty churches, eighteen UNESCO monuments and numerous aristocratic palaces. Placed upon a hill, this hamlet dominates the surrounding valley where, among its huts and little streets, stands the majestic Duomo di San Giorgio, maximum Baroque expression.
5- Val di Noto
Rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake and inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the eight city of South-Eastern Sicily (Caltagirone, Catania, Militello Val di Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa e Scicli) represent the result of a remarkable collective commitment succesfully led with architectural and artistical results of high level. Each one with their own places of interest, but all tied to the late Baroque style of that age, those city are a “unicum” for the important innovations made in the field of urban planning and organization.
6- Riserva naturale di Vendicari
Placed at the South East far end of Sicily, the Nature Reserve of Vendicari consists of an area of 15,000 hectares and is one of the most interesting natural areas of Europe. Of great value for the diversity of environments which is made by, along its 8 km of uncontaminated coast, we can find: Calamosca, Eloro and Marianelli beaches, where the thin sand downgrades to a fairytale sea; some archeological find of Greek age such as the roadway that used to connect the sailing centre to the old town of Noto, or the catacomb of Bizantine age; the tuna-fishing net and the observation tower of Vendicari, dating back to the Norman age, visible even now from all over the Reserve from which got its name. It is not over yet. The presence of great freshwater mirrors makes the Reserve a point of landing for big birds during the migrations period: from the many sighting points you will be able to admire spices of flamingos, herons, storks, spoonbills and black-winged stilts. The terrestrial fauna, instead, mainly consists of little mammal like foxes and porcupines, besides reptiles and amphibians.
7- Gole dell'Alcantara
The flow of the Alcantara river, upon its banks has been instituted the River Park of Alcantara, is the place where more than others you can admire the sensational effects of natural phenomenons. As a matter of fact, the canyon of the Gorges was originated by the cooling of lava flows in the freezing water of the river, giving birth to rocky sides high up to 50 metres and rocks of interesting shape. For about 25 meters you can enter in the initial section of the downhill trail, where, between little lakes and waterfalls of pure water, you will find a little beach accessible in the beautiful season, until the water level doesn’t become too high or whirling, and you can also dive in but it is advisable to wear a mute. The path of the Gorges is instead all year round; it is the only other way to visit the Gorges and observe the canyon from another point of view, especially when the water of the beach is too high. Easy and with moderate slopes, the Gorges, offer viewpoints such as la terrazza di Venere or il balcone delle Muse, with a sublime view. Alternatively, for sport lovers, river trekking and body rafting are the most adventurous ways to live and explore the Gorges.
Located near Siracusa between Cassaro, Ferla e Sortino, ancient village of the first half of the VII century B.C. and assimilated to the oriented Nature Reserve, Pantalica has been classified since 2005 as UNESCO World Heritage.
The archeological site, which covers a magnificent naturalistic area of about 80 hectars, consists of: Pantalica, the Valley of Anapo and Torrente Cava Grande. It overlooks deep canyons dug into calcareous rocks by the rivers Anapo and Calcinara and includes five big necropolis with characteristic artificial tombs, called “a grotticella artificiale” made by the Siculi between the XII and the VII century B.C., inside which have been rediscovered numerous finds dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic, kept in the Regional Museum “Paolo Orsi” of Siracusa. Reachable both from Sortino and Ferla, the least is recommended because it is less difficult and of greater interest since a few kilometers from the town there is “la Stella di Filiporto”, an ancient access to the city with the ruins of the defence line. Here a sign indicates the various itineraries. Walking along the paths, you can turn towards the Necropolis of Filippo and reach the Byzantine village with rocky dwellings and the little Oratory of San Micidiario. Not far away there are the tracks of the legendary reign of Hyblone, with remains of the Anaktoron, or Palace of the Prince, of which still is visible the foundation in megalithic stone blocks that recall the contemporary Mycenaean constructions. The Necropolis of Pantalica, one of the most ancient examples of funerary architecture rock, is the ideal destination for a visit that combines culture, nature and trekking.
Hilly little town of Eastern Sicily, about 70 km away from the South-west of Catania, the art city of Caltagirone is one of the main references of ceramic art in Italy, a real pearl that guards numerous great works of art thanks to which has gained the epithet of “City of ceramics”.
The city, destroyed following the catastrophic earthquake of 1693, has been rebuilt by architects as Battaglia, Gagliardi and Bonaiuto who have given it a Baroque style, later enriched of Liberty suggestions. His historical-architectural patrimony consits of: Piazza del Municipio, la Scala di Santa Maria del Monte, il Carcere Borbonico, la Villa Comunale and la Chiesa dei Cappuccini.
10- Parco dell'Etna
With the Region Decree of the 17 March 1987, the Park of Etna is the first park instituted by the Region of Sicily. With the main goal to protect a unique natural environment, defend the extraordinary landscape that surrounds the volcano and promote the development of the inhabitants and local communities, the park covers about 59000 hectares of land.
With its woods, paths, unique landscapes, typical products and the historical centres of the cities, the Park is all year round a captivating call for travellers and for those who love nature, food and wine, and doing outdoor sports in a one in a million set.
The park is a magnificent area of Eastern Sicily, a truly unique environment that highlights a strong nature, but generous at the same thanks to the overflowing fertility of its ground ( there are a lot of vineyards and wine cellars along the “Strada del vino” of Etna).
At the center of the park ecosystem there is the Etna, which reaches about 3350 meters hight and covers an area of approximately 1260 square kilometers. Its area includes twenty towns (Adrano, Belpasso, Biancavilla, Bronte, Castiglione di Sicilia, Giarre, Linguaglossa, Maletto, Mascali, Milo, Nicolosi, Pedara, Piedimonte Etneo, Ragalna, Randazzo, Santa Maria di Licodia, Sant’Alfio, Trecastagni, Viagrande, Zafferana Etnea), with a population of about 250.000 inhabitans.