Located 16km (10 miles) north of Catania, this makes for one of the most satisfying day trips along the eastern coast of Sicily. Many people find Acireale more interesting than those rather dull lava fields of Mount Etna.
Overlooking the Ionian Sea, Acireale lies in a fertile valley of Mount Etna surrounded by citrus groves. The town stands on seven streams of lava and has long been known for its hot springs and spa facilities. Like Catania, it is a city of the baroque, with many of its greatest treasures from the 17th century. The same 1693 earthquake that destroyed Catania also did major damage in Acireale.
The "Aci" in the town's name comes from the mythical river said to have been created in the wake of the death of Acis, the handsome youth in love with the graceful Nereid Galatea. Acis was, according to the story, slain by the jealous Polyphemus, the savage of Cyclops.
To reach the town, most visitors arrive by car. Drive north of Catania until you see the cutoff to the right leading to the sea and Acireale. Buses also run throughout the day from Catania.
Before walking about the town, stop at the tourist office, Via Scionti 15 (tel. 095-891999), for a town map. Hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 2pm, Tuesday and Thursday 4 to 7pm.
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