totals a population of 52,000.
del Duomo – The central square, once called Piazza del Cinque
d’Oro (the square of the golden five) with reference to playing
cards reflecting the arrangement of a platform surrounded by four
small flower-beds that occupied it. Here musical and theatrical
events were performed at one time. This beautiful piazza is surrounded
by elegant baroque buildings, namely the Duomo, the Basilica of
Saints Peter and Paul – featuring a fine asymmetric façade
with a single belfry – and the Town Hall, dated 1659, with
wrought-iron balconies supported on richly decorated brackets bearing
masks and gargoyles.
set back, at the beginning of via Davì, sits the 1600’s
Palazzo Modò having two beautiful balconies with brackets
decorated with ugly creatures; its façade bears the name
– Eldorado – of the theatre that occupied the premises
in the early 1900’s, crowned with a large mask.
Duomo – Dedicated to SS. Annunziata and Venera, it has a two-tone
neo-gothic façade, by Giovan Battista Filippo Basile (1825-1891),
who designed the Teatro Massimo in Palermo and was father of praised
Ernesto Basile, a master of the Liberty style. Standing between
two belfries with majolica spires, the front is enriched with a
fine portal that goes back to the 1600’s. Inside, between
the transept and the chancel are interesting frescoes by Vasta.
The floor in the transept is occupied by a 1800’s sundial
by Sertorius and Peters.
Basilica di S. Sebastiano – It is located on corso Vittorio
Emanuele, near Piazza Duomo, on the right hand side. A statue-topped
balustrade crowns the Baroque façade of the church, combining
columns, pilasters, niches and volutes. The transept and the chancel,
inside, contain frescoes by Vasta depicting scenes from the life
of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of the city.
S. Domenico – At the end of via Cavour. It is a tiny piazza
adorned by the omonymous church with a fine baroque façade,
the Palazzo Musumeci (17th century) with wrought-iron balconies
and rococò windows. At a short distance, is the Biblioteca
Zalantea, the town library, annexed with an art gallery. Here reside
the plaster modello for the statue of Acis and Galatea (now in the
gardens of the Villa Comunale) by Rosario Anastasi, and a bust of
Julius Caesar known as the Busto di Acireale (1st century BC).
Belvedere – North of the city, at the far end of Corso Umberto
I. These nice and peaceful gardens are complete with panoramic terrace
offering breath-taking views of the Etna and the sea. Here is the
mentioned statue of Acis and Galatea. At the entrance, at left,
is a reproduction of the platform once ornamenting Piazza del Duomo.
di S. Venera – South of the city, entrance off SS. 114. The
thermal baths date back to 1873. They were built at the behest of
the Baron Agostino Pennisi di Floristella, in a neo-classical style
(his castle is still visible behind the baths, near the old railway
station). They are fed by sulphurous water which is channelled from
a spring about 3km inland, south of Acireale, in the district of
Reitana. Here were discovered the remains of the Roman spa of Santa
Venera al Pozzo consisting of two barrel-vaulted rooms, presumedly
served as Tepidarium and Calidarium.
the SS. 114 to Catania, a left turning leads to the village of S.
Maria La Scala. Along the way, the Church of S. Maria La Neve is
del Presepe – The Grotto of the Crib, next to the church,
is a winding lava ravine that bandits and fishermen used as a refuge,
as far as the 18th century. Successively, it was transformed to
represent the Cave at Bethlehem. In 1752, a crib was arranged here
comprising 32 life-sized figures with wax faces and dressed in sumptuous
clothes (notably the Magi).
S. Maria della Scala – It is a picturesque village grown around
the 1600’s Mother Church, overlooking the sea. It has a nice
little harbor. Return to the SS 114 and follow in direction of Catania;
take the left fork for Capomulini. Abouth 100m along this road lies
the Museo dei Pupi dell’Opra (the Puppet Museum) on the via
Nazionale to Catania.
dei Pupi dell’Opra – The Turi Grasso Puppet Theatre
displays a collection of traditional puppets (some dating from the
1800’s). These are evidence for the high skill and craftmanship
involved in the making of the puppets and their costumes. A small
working theatre is also housed inside (ask at the museum for details
towns of Aci Catena and Aci S. Filippo are almost natural extensions
of Acireale. The small city of Aci Catena, owing its name to the
cult of the Virgin of the Chain, has a nice centre developing around
the Piano Umberto square onto which view the beautiful Town Hall
and a number of 1800’s and 1900’s attractive palazzi.
There also lie the 1700’s Mother Church and, next to it, the
Palazzo Riggio, unfortunately reduced to a poor condition.
S. Filippo – At the heart of the city stands the Mother Church,
with a fine Baroque façade dating back to the 18th century,
and, on one side, a campanile with a stone lava base.
to legend, the life of Santa Venera, the patron saint of Acireale,
was closely related to the thermal baths of the city. In fact, before
being martyred, the saint would have worked as a nurse at the baths.
city preserves a number of beautiful Baroque buildings erected following
the 1693’s earthquake ravaging many cities in the Eastern
Sicily. The heart of the town is occupied by Piazza del Duomo, that
is crossed by the city thoroughfare corso Umberto I. The latter,
becoming corso Vittorio Emanuele to the South, is bordered by elegant
buildings, shops, boutiques and ice-cream parlours that do honor
to the fame of the local ice-cream. Acireale is a renowned spa thanks
to the sulphurous water gushed by springs south of the town, where
are the Terme of S. Venera, documented since Antiquity.
city is also famous for its Carnival, with processions of allegorical
floats, some of which bedecked with flowers, and masked revellers
streaming through the main streets. Another attraction of Acireale
is the Teatro dei Pupi (the Puppet Theatre) that puts on animated
interpretations of the most poignant and bellicose scenes taken
from the French chansons de geste, especially from the Chanson de
Roland. The shows are still performed in the Museo dei Pupi dell’Opra,
just off Acireale.