Acireale is located on the east of Sicily not far from the city of Catania'. It was an important medieval town that got further developed in the 16th and 17th century with the addition of some fine Baroque achitecture.
Sicily Visitor comment: Acireale is not a major tourist destination but does have an elegant main square surrounded by Baroque buildings and various other Baroque buildings throughout the town.
Head to the Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral square) to admire some of Acireale's finest buildings which are situated around the square. These are the cathedral, the Saint Peter and Paul basilica, the Municipal palace and the Modo palace.
The cathedral is a beautiful golden building which dates back to the 15th century but was renovated later. The Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul next to the cathedral dates to the 16th and 17th century and is in Baroque style.
Both the basilica and the cathedral contain art works by Pietro Paulo Vasta (1697-1760) one of Acireale's most famous artists. He was responsible for much of the decoration of buildings following the earthquake of 1693 which caused a lot of damage and led to the rebuilding in the Baroque style which was fashionable in the 17th century.
To see more works by Pietro Paulo Vasta visit the Zelantea library and art gallery. As well as works by local artists it contains archeaological finds from the area. The library contains thousands of books including many rare volumes.
More Baroque architecture can be seen on the Town Hall on the side of Cathedral Square and also in a number of palaces in the city including Palazzo Pennisi and Palazzo Modo.
Just a little further down the main road from Cathedral Square is another basilica, the Basilica of San Sebastiano which is considered to be the most important church in Acireale. The Basilica of San Sebastiano and is a UNESCO listed monument. Be sure to look inside which is covered in frescoes by Pietro Paulo Vasta.
The oldest church in the city is the church os Saint Antonio di Padova which has a beautiful Gothic doorway. Inside are more artworks by Paulo Vasta though sadly whilst working here when feeling ill he fell from his scaffold and became paralysed and died five years later. His son Alessandro finished his paintings.
If you wish to follow in Lord Byron's footsteps then head south of the town for the viewpoint of the Belvedere di Santa Caterina with views over the Ionian Sea. Another good place for views are the gardens of the Villa Belvedere at the end of corso Umberto I. These pretty gardens have views over the sea and over Mount Etna.
Although Acireale is close to the sea it is seperated from it by the Timpa Nature Reserve, an area of volcanic rock on which grows wild asparagus, mirth, wild oleastor and carob trees. There are various paths and you can walk or drive down to the village of Santa Maria La Scala which is directly below Acireale and has a pleasant little harbour.
The lack of any beaches and distance from the centre of Acireale mean that Acireale has not become a resort town.
Acireale was once an important spa town and its baths are on the southern edge of town. The Saint Venera Thermal Establishment is built in neoclassical style and surrounded by an English-style garden. It welcomed Richard Wagner in its heyday but is sadly now closed.
The carnival of Acireale is extremely popular, indeed one of the most popular on Sicily. The Acireale carnival dates back to the 16th century. Festivities last a week and include a processsion of floats made up to depict personnages of history and politics. The real carnival is in February but it is so popular and the floats so good that it is repeated with another procession of the floats in Augusts when everyone can benefit from the warm evenings as well as the festivities.
Where to visit nearby?
Head down to the coast and the Timpa nature reserve on a promontory into the sea. With volconic rocks and dense vegetation it is a haven for wildlife and plants.
Trips to Mount Etna are also extremely popular.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.