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Pocket Guide: Acireale

Surrounded by orchards and perched on a lava terrace at the foot of Mount Etna, Acireale is one of the most attractive towns along this part of Sicily’s north-eastern coast. In Roman times, it was a spa town, and nowadays, you’ll find beautiful Baroque architecture and elegant squares as well as a bustling seafront.

What to See in Acireale

Head to Piazza Duomo where, amid all the cafés and ice-cream shops, you’ll find the impressive 16th-century cathedral and the basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Check out the works by Sicilian artists over the centuries at Zalantea Art Gallery, which also includes an archaeological collection from Acireale’s Greek days.

Acireale may be small, but it puts on during the last two weeks before Lent one of the biggest carnivals in Sicily. Thousands of revellers fill the streets as the town is taken over by parades, processions and extravagant floats – not to mention all that local food and wine to enjoy.

Where to Stay in Acireale

There’s a wide range of hotels in Acireale and the surrounding seaside villages. You could stay in a family-run B&B in the heart of the centre, a luxurious converted convent or a modern purpose-built hotel. Because of Acireale’s high elevation, it’s not difficult to find a hotel with views of either Mount Etna or the Ionian Sea – or both – and many of the hotels feature outdoor pools.

Acireale for Nature Lovers

Looming over the Ionian Sea is the massive Timpa Nature Reserve set in an incredibly fertile plateau. Hikers can follow the trails within the woods and groves, stopping occasionally for breathtaking views of the sea. There’s a zigzagging path that eventually winds down to the rocky beach below.

For something a little less strenuous, wander through the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Villa Belvedere, a public park at the northern end of the Timpa reserve. The views of the Ionian Sea are just as glorious. For a change of scenery, head to the south of Acireale towards Capo Mulino, a lively port with restaurants and another beach.