8 Best Things To Do In Acireale, Italy

things to do in Acireale

The coastal city of Acireale is located in the northeast of Catania, Sicily, in southern Italy, just at the foot of Mount Etna. Home to countless churches, including the Neo-Gothic St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Sebastian’s Basilica in the Sicilian Baroque style, and the 17th century Acireale Cathedral, Acireale is also notable for its strong, artistic culture and it is also home to the oldest art academy, in Sicily.

Acireale’s origins date all the way back to Xiphonia, a mysterious Greek city that the annals of history have more or less completely forgotten, with little physical reminders left of its existence. The city expanded around an ancient castle from the Byzantines during the Middle Ages but was nearly completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1693.

But, of course, as it still stands today, it’s managed to survive, and visitors can still come by to check out the many Christian structures and history Acireale has to offer. If you’re planning a trip to this part of Italy, be sure to take a look at this list of the top things to do in Acireale, to be sure you don’t miss any of the highlights.

1. Acireale Cathedral

Cattedrale acireale
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user LuckyLisp used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Acireale Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Declared the seat of the Bishop of Acireale in 1870, the building was originally constructed as a simple parish church, between 1597 and 1618, that was greatly enlarged a few years later when it received the relics of Saint Venera, one of the two patron saints of the city, giving it the weight and power necessary to gain a number of new fans.

The present cathedral is a 17th-century building, with significant additions made in each succeeding century and one should note the Baroque portal, representing the Annunciation by Placido Blandamonte of Messina. The two campaniles are constructed in Mannerist style, with octagonal bases, and although identical in appearance, are centuries apart in terms of their construction. Undoubtedly one of the main sights of Acireale, this is a must visit while you’re here.

Acireale Cathedral

Address: Piazza Duomo, 95024, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

Website: Acireale Cathedral

2. Riserva Naturale Orientata La Timpa

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Riserva Naturale Orientata La Timpa is a nature reserve that consists of a nice rocky beach, mostly visited by locals. It’s a wonderful escape from the busy city and a breath of fresh air for those looking to find themselves with their own thoughts. Do note that it can be hard to climb up and down here and it is easy to get lost, so make sure you have a guide or a map of some form. The climb is rewarding, though and there’s an amazing view from the top.

Riserva Naturale Orientata La Timpa

Address: Via Madonna delle Grazie 104, 95024, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

Website: Riserva Naturale Orientata La Timpa

3. Mostra Permanente delle Uniformi Storiche

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Just off the Piazza Duomo, where Acireale’s two great churches lie, you’ll find the Mostra Permanente delle Uniformi Storiche, or the uniform museum, located on the ground floor of the impressive City Hall palazzo. Although not the biggest museum in Italy and not particularly of huge historical significance, the museum is great for a quick break, and here you can see all kinds of interesting (mostly military) uniforms, with a story behind each one.

Mostra Permanente delle Uniformi Storiche

Address: Piazza Duomo, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

Website: Mostra Permanente delle Uniformi Storiche

4. Faro Sant'Anna - The Lighthouse Capomulini

Acitrezza, Faro di Capo Mulini
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carlo Pelagalli used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Faro Sant'Anna is one of the most iconic places to visit while in Acireale and there’s plenty to admire here on the wild volcanic coast. It’s a bit of an explosion of nature, with plenty of cacti and rocks strewn all over the beach, so if you came here for an easy trek, think again. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth popping by, and you’ll certainly enjoy a nice cool breeze and feel like something out of a hip indie film, as you lie back on a sun lounger and feel the cool breeze against your face.

Faro Sant'Anna

Address: Via Nissoria 41 | Capomulini, 95024, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

Website: Faro Sant'Anna

5. Pinacoteca Zelantea

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Zelantea represents the main library and picture gallery in Acireale. Located in Via Marchese di Sangiuliano, in a neo-classical palace designed in the early 20th century by the architect Mariano Panebianco, Zelantea takes its name from the Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of the Zelants and Dafnici, an ancient association still in operation.

The Zelantea contains plenty of treasures, including an 18th-century carriage of the Senate of Aegean, the bust of Caesar, a collection of weapons and a tricolour flag from the Risorgimento era, a collection of Greek-Roman finds from the area of the excavations of Santa Venera al Pozzo, collections of minerals, coins and fossils. As for the library, it’s a book lover’s dream, as visitors can view the more than 100,000 books housed here, with more than 1,650 magazines and magazines in circulation, covering a total of over 143,000 journals.

There is also an impressive collection of incunabula, rare and precious manuscripts. Finally, the art museum in Zelantea contains a large number of works donated by Paul Leonardi Pennisi, forming the core of the gallery, and it has only grown over the years. These include paintings from the 17th to 19th century, etchings by Van Dyke, works by Domenichino, the Guercino and more.

Pinacoteca Zelantea

Address: Via Marchese di Sangiuliano 17, 95024, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

Website: Pinacoteca Zelantea

6. Piazza del Duomo di Acireale

Acireale, Piazza Duomo
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Debernardis2 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you go to Acireale, you’ll no doubt be checking out the majestic churches in the very centre of the town, and you’ll eventually wind up in the piazza, as well. There’s plenty to do here, including checking out the Cathedral of Sant’ Agata and the Fountain of the Elephant, a Roman statue that is now the symbol of the city.

Plus, there’s plenty of cafes to catch a quick pick me up cuppa if you get tired walking around the city, with lovely settings to watch the people stroll by. If you walk down a couple of blocks, you’ll also get to see the Teatro Romano, the local theatre, as well as the Church of St Nicholas, which offers an amazing view of Mount Etna and the coast. You’ll probably wind up back here a few times, so take your time to chill and explore!

Piazza del Duomo di Acireale

Address: Piazza del Duomo, 95024, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

7. Basilica di San Sebastiano

Acireale, Basilica di San Sebastiano
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Carlo Pelagalli used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Basilica of San Sebastiano was first opened in 1609 and completed in 1644. Despite suffering multiple earthquakes, the temple is now fully restored and was even expanded to include a collegiate with a papal bubble, in 1924. The church’s facade is preceded by a balustrade made in 1754, embellished with statues of Old Testament characters, such as David, Joshua, Moses, Aaron, Gideon and Samson. The interior has plenty to gawk at, as well, as the first thing you’ll see is a huge Latin cross, before noticing the many frescoes by Pietro Paolo Vasta, and scenes depicting the life of Saint Sebastian himself.

The church also contains an impressive treasure museum, which includes works of Sicilian manufacture, including a wax statue from the 18th century, as well as relics of the saint, including a massive gold-coloured monolith with diamonds. Finally, you’ll arrive at the 18th-century crypt, which, spookily enough, serves as both a conference room and concert hall.

Basilica di San Sebastiano

Address: Piazza Leonardo Vigo, 95024, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

Website: Basilica di San Sebastiano

8. Collezione di Pupi Siciliani

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dennis Jarvis used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Just a short walk away from the Duomo, you’ll be able to find this quirky little museum that contains - PUPPETS. They’ll be more than happy to tell you about the different types of puppets (or pupi) found all around Sicily. It’s small, but a very good exhibit that will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about these puppets, which are made in the Catanese style as opposed to the smaller ones in Siracusa. Also, it’s free.

Collezione di Pupi Siciliani

Address: Via Galatea 5, 95024, Acireale, Sicily, Italy

Take in this lovely coastal city's history

Acireale porto, Acireale, Catania, Sicily, Italy
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user trolvag used under CC BY-SA 3.0

As with every Italian city, there are plenty of churches to visit in Acireale. But look a little deeper and you’ll also find countless bits of culture, from uniform museums to puppet museums. The churches themselves are no slouches either, of course, and there’s a treasure trove to gawk at in Acireale, a must visit, while you’re in Sicily.

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