It may be small, but beautiful Acireale has a wealth of superb architecture, fine views toward Mount Etna and one of Italy’s liveliest carnivals.
Just a short drive north of Catania and perched high above the coast, Acireale remains noticeably quieter than many other nearby towns. Exactly why this is true is hard to understand, as the town has charming squares lined with classical Baroque architecture, thermal baths and a pleasant beach for swimming nearby. The serenity disappears during the spring, when Sicily’s biggest carnival comes to town.
Start your visit in the Piazza del Duomo close to the city center. Here you’ll see groups of locals enjoying the cafés or shopping at market stalls near exquisite Baroque structures. On the northwestern side of the square is the 17th-century Acireale Cathedral. Admire the towering twin spires and explore the interior to find several chapels decorated with intricately painted murals. Continue your walk around the piazza and you’ll pass the Basilica dei Santi Pietro e Paolo and the Palazzo Municipale. Both buildings display traditional Baroque design features including stunning carvings and portals.
A short walk south will take you to another pretty square, the Piazza Lionardo Vigo. The main draw here is the fantastic Basilica di San Sebastiano. See statues of figures from the Old Testament on the main façade and look inside at the colorful frescoes that recount the life of Saint Sebastian.
After a morning of sightseeing, spend an afternoon at the beach. A short stroll downhill will take you to the village of Santa Maria La Scala. Swim in the warm waters or eat freshly caught fish from a restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
If you are here in February, you’ll have a treat. This is when the Carnevale di Acireale takes place. The carnival runs for three weeks and is one of the largest in Italy, featuring colorful floats, live music and dancing.
Besides carnival week, summers are the busiest time in Acireale, though the warm Mediterranean climate means you can expect fine weather from March until the end of October.