Are you wondering what attractions can be found around Catania? Oh, there are quite a lot of them! First of all, Catania is well connected with most cities located in the eastern part of Sicily, which I have already written about here (I recommend visiting all of them!). In addition to climbing the famous Mount Etna, I would like to tell you some more original ideas for day trips in Catania, thanks to which you will surely fall in love with Sicily and have fun.
Gole dell’Alcantara – how to get there?
The Alcantara Gorge is less than just 60 km from Catania and getting there by car is the most convenient way. You can also go there during a trip to Taormina or sunbathing in Giardini Naxos (here you can read about the most beautiful beaches in the eastern part of Sicily), because then you will get to this paradise in less than 20 minutes. If you don’t have a car, people say that the Interbus bus departs from there and will easily take you to your destination.
Since moving to Sicily, Gole dell’Alcantara has been at the top of my travel dreams and I didn’t expect it to come true so soon. All winter I tried to convince my Sicilian friends to go on a trip to the gorge together, but they were always refusing me in a firm way. In their opinion, the best time to visit Gole dell’Alcantara is late spring, summer or early autumn – then you can take full advantage of the charms of this place and immerse yourself in the icy river.
Last year, fate changed my life plans a bit and I was still in Sicily at the end of May. Just after it turned out that we can finally travel freely around the island again, hungry for adventures and beautiful views, together with friends we went to conquer the Sicilian nature!
Sicilian Gole dell’Alcantara, or heaven on earth
The name of the gorge comes from the Alcantara River that crosses it. This area is part of the Botanical and Geological Park, which has only been operating for some 50 years. And what is the effect of this extraordinary landscape? Rock formations of very unusual shapes reach a height of up to 50 meters. They were formed several thousand years ago as a result of the meeting of hot lava with icy water, which solidified much faster than usual.
Due to the fact that we arrived late, we used the private entrance with a lift belonging to the Park, but we had to pay about 8 euros (the price varies depending on the season and there are options with additional attractions). From what I’ve read, there is a second public entrance (descent) around the Park (about 100-200 steps), the cost of which is only 1.50 euros and next time I would take advantage of this opportunity. Apparently it is poorly marked, but it pays off much more.
Alcantara Canyon – an amazing spectacle of nature
After descending to the bottom of the gorge, we reached a stunning place where nature plays the first fiddle. Who would have thought that nature created all this by itself? We could see huge basalt rocks with strange shapes and an icy transparent river with a beautiful color flowing between them.
We left our stuff on a small beach and quickly jumped into the refreshing water. I don’t like to freeze, but the temperature was bearable! The farther we went, the stronger the current of the river became, and the landscapes even more beautiful. A few times I let myself get carried away by its current, an interesting feeling! There were even tiny waterfalls here and there! For the first time in my life I was in such a place and I couldn’t stop admiring the surrounding nature. Something amazing!
Then, to bask and dry, we lay down on the beach and absorbed beautiful, just carefree moments. But remember that I visited Gole dell’Alcantara during the lockdown (May 2020), so it was very quiet and intimate. I heard that during the season there are crowds in this place which can effectively take away its charm.
The fascinating Riviera of the Cyclopes, or Acitrezza, Aci Castello and Acireale
The Riviera of the Cyclopes (Riviera dei Ciclopi) is right next to Catania and there have been many intriguing legends about this place. It consists of three towns located directly on the sea and a short distance from each other: Acitrezza, Aci Castello and Acireale. I have special affection for these places, especially Acitrezza, where I often went with my friends for a walk or delicious granita.
Magical Acitrezza, or Sicily off the beaten path
Acitrezza is perhaps one of the most romantic places in the area of Catania, where myths intertwine with reality. It is a small fishing village with a typical holiday atmosphere and it is situated only 10 km from Catania.
I was lucky enough to drive there with my Sicilian friends, but if you don’t have a car, you can get to Acitrezza by bus number 534, which leaves from Piazza Borsellino. The journey will last around an hour. From my personal experience I know that city buses do not run according to the schedule and are often late, so I recommend that you be patient at the beginning and plan your stay so that it is better not to return on the last possible route ;P The ticket costs EUR 1.50 and is valid for 90 minutes.
The trademark of Acitrezza are several-meter-high volcanic rocks protruding from the sea (called faraglioni in Italian), around which a very interesting story related to Homer’s Odyssey revolves. Apparently, the enraged cyclops – one-eyed Polyphemus (living in Etna) blindly threw volcanic boulders at the fleeing Odysseus and his ship, but he was still missing and this is why the famous rocks appeared in this place 🙂
In addition, Acitrezza is a paradise for diving – marine fauna and flora are extremely interesting. You can also just sit on the rocky shore and catch the sun, taking in the fresh air, admiring the beautiful landscapes. Don’t ignore Acitrezza – it’s a great place to relax, but many tourists don’t know about 🙂
It is also worth going to the nearby town – Aci Castello, where you can find a Norman castle (castello) built of lava, from which there is a wonderful view of the bay and the mythical faraglioni.
And my last piece of advice about the Riviera of the Cyclopes – be sure to plan to spend at least one day in the wonderful Acireale, about which I wrote a separate article. And if you are going to come to Sicily in winter, don’t miss the most beautiful Carnival in Sicily in Acireale!
Have you ever been to the Cyclops Riviera? Which town did you like the most? 🙂
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