The Sicilian coastline from Aci Castello to Acireale that looks like a drawing of lava and it’s shaped by the waves of the Mediterranean Sea goes back to the ancient Greek myths and has inspired such personalities like the writer Giovanni Verga and the movie director Luchino Visconti. The Riviera of the Cyclops takes its name from its facing islands, a little archipelago in a protected sea area featured by cliffs and the desert island of Lachea and it is said that they were the rocks that Polyphemus threw as Ulisse sailed away after cheating and making him blind. The ideal destination of this Riviera is the sea village of Aci Trezza, in the county of Aci Castello. The repetition of the prefix Aci in the place-names of this area comes from a shepherd called Aci who might have lived in this area, he was a beautiful young men who fell in love with the nymph Galatea and he was killed by Polyphemus for this reason. The shepherd’s blood, thanks to the intercession of the nymphs was turned into a river that took his name that is called Lavinaio nowadays.
The village of literature and movies
Aci Trezza has an old fishing tradition and it is the setting of the most famous novel by Giovanni Verga, “I Malavoglia” (1881). His work gave inspiration to the movie “La terra trema” (1948) directed by Luchino Visconti. Surrounded by Mount Fano and Mount Fanello, this village deserves a visit because of a number of interesting places like the church of Saint John the Baptist that features a Baroque front side, the Farm of the land estate with its old oil mill, the barn, the lemon garden and Casa Merra, a building that was once used as an inn that is near the old harbour. The Cliffs’ Tower is the only ruin of the old defence system whose foundations had been build on the Roman or Bizantine ruins and it still reminds the pirates’ raids. Nespolo’s house must absolutely be visited, it is said “I Malavoglia” by Verga used to live there. The tiny house that dates back to the XIXth century is now a museum dedicated to the movies by Visconti and the fishing traditions of the village.
The Timpa, the scents and the mills
If you get along the coastline you’ll find Capo Mulini, it’s a break in the unspoilt nature, in the colours and the perfumes of the Mediterranean vegetation. Capo Mulini takes its name from the old mills that were once used in the tanneries. It’s a charming natural harbour and it’s featured by the church of Santa Maria dating back to the XVIth century and the tower of Sant'Anna that was used as an outpost to see the Pirates’ ships in the distance. There’s a lighthouse there today. The area of Gazzena in the natural reserve of the Timpa is not far away. You can go through a route, you don’t need to be particularly fit, of around 1700 metres along a typical country track. Along this route you’ll see the pits, the farms and Villa Calanna, a big Patrician house that still represents an amazing example of rural architecture. You ca also see the Mediterranean vegetations of the plains, the blue sea and breath the scents of wild bushes and the sumac.
Santa Maria la Scala, the sea and the sun
At the bottom of the Timpa reserve there’s the fishing village of Santa Maria la Scala, you can walk there from Acireale trough a staircase, called the staircase of Chiazzette that goes ahead towards the coastline and follows eight turns made of lava stones interposed with a few panoramic little squares. The staircase which goes back to the XVIIth century is surrounded by the Mediterranean vegetation: there are caper bushes, the prickly pears and a huge sycamore around 150 years old. On your way down you’ll see the Tocco fortress dating back to the XVIIth century. From the last light of stairs you can chose two different tracks: the one on your right will lead you to the Miuccio beach while if you go straight on you’ll reach the beautiful square of Santa Maria la Scala. You will see the fishers who fix their fishing nets in the sun or you can see old weavers at work.