Along the coast northwards, at little more than 10 kilometres from Catania, lies Aci Castello, an ancient seaside village 15 metres above sea level. The name Aci Castello comes from its castle built in 1076 by the Normans on a lava stone outcrop. The first castle on the site was built in the VII century b.C. by the Byzantines on a pre-existing Roman fortification called Castrum Jacis built around XXXVIII century b.C. to protect the local population from incursions. In Medieval times it was the focal point of development in the surrounding areas.
During the Norman period the first village was founded at the feet of the castle which Count Ruggero then gave to the bishops of Catania. The village was completely destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1170 and was only rebuilt and inhabited again in 1530, when the nearby villages of Ficarazzi and Aci Trezza were annexed. Although it still conserves its ancient origins, over the years it has become a prestigious seaside resort, attracting large numbers of tourists.
The town’s most striking feature is without doubt the Norman Castle which dominates the main square, with a long balcony that gives wonderful views over the sea below and the attractive Riviera dei Ciclopi. Built in lava stone from Mount Etna the castle stands on a lava stone promontory which rises sheer from the sea. It can only be entered from the square by means of a stone stairway, which at one time also had a wooden drawbridge.
The central part of the fort is a square keep, the ‘donjon’, the heart of the manor. Only a small part of the original structure remains: the entrance with what is left of the drawbridge mechanism; the courtyard which contains a small botanical garden; a few rooms including one that houses the museum, a chapel probably dating from the Byzantine period and a wide terrace with wonderful views over the bay. The museum is divided into three sections: mineralogy, paleontology and archaeology.
The parish church is of particular architectural interest with remarkable frescoes by Pietro Vasta (1697-1760).
Tasty, aromatic and colourful, the kitchens of the many renowned restaurants in Aci Castello and Aci Trezza offer a great variety of delicious meals.
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