TRANSFEERO: Reliable airport transfers worldwide
Book a private transfer at over 1500 airports, stations and ports worldwide

The people of Acireale solemnly call it “the” Timpa. But to be exact this escarpment that flows into the sea is part of a system of different “timpas”, that is “cliffs” – in Sicilian – formed by lava rocks. However, the one of Acireale is certainly among the most majestic and for this reason it attracts considerable geological but also tourist interest. At the top of the Timpa rises a plateau that runs almost to the foot of Mount Etna. And there the city of Acireale has developed.

lava plateau_(3)The city on the plateau

As far as history is concerned, Acireale is located on the lava plateau of Timpa for safety reasons. In fact, in the Middle Ages, in order to better protect themselves from attacks by sea, the inhabitants of the village that once was on the coast decided to move up. From that privileged position, in fact, they could spot enemies in time and prepare their defences.

The security offered by a town in that position led many people over there, thus favouring the growth of a large city. On the plateau, among other things, the fertile soil nourished by lava rocks produced fruits (oranges, lemons, vines but also mulberries for breeding silkworms from which a precious textile industry derived), ensured the presence of water and donated welfare.

Acireale used to be a rich city and you can still see it today from the traces of its elegant eighteenth-century Baroque. The many churches, the noble palaces, the parks … everything here recalls that lucky period. Today the city lives mostly thanks to commerce and tourism, with less money but with its beauties and natural landscapes still intact.

Walking along the Timpa…

The “timpas” are scarps formed by the movement of the faults as they break in such a way as to form small or large steps. They usually have an elongated and regular shape. The Timpa of Acireale respects these characteristics and does it “in a big way”.

In fact, the escarpment gets to 150 meters above sea level, while under the surface of the water it continues forming more “steps”. It is formed by a mix of faults that emerge from the sea (including the large and dangerous Ibleo-Maltese fault) and lava flows that have descended from Etna over the centuries and deposited in layers one on top of the other. Today, the Timpa is covered in wild vegetation and, due to its importance, has become a Nature Reserve.

You can walk along the extension of the Timpa, thanks to various nature trails – the most important oflava plateau_ (2) which is the seventeenth-century one called Le Chiazzette. Along these paths you can admire geological shapes (crocodile-rocks, rope lavas, column basalts, lava tunnels, emerged dykes), floral beauties (wild fennel, cabbage, mastic, broom, hackberry) and animals (common seagull, herring gull, hawks, buzzards, lizards, turtles, harmless snakes). You will also come across some interesting architecture, such as chapels, the fortress of Tocco, small panoramic corners embellished with benches carved in stone! And of course the seaside villages located at the Timpa’s foot.

Living on a plateau that… moves

Acireale was one of the cities hit hard by the earthquake of 1693. In fact, the plateau on which it stands – though so beautiful – is a mix of small and large faults and therefore … it moves! Living here is fascinating because almost every corner of the city offers splendid panoramic views of both the sea and Mount Etna, but it is also a risk.

In fact, the Timpa slowly landslides towards the sea and the various periodic earthquakes caused by the faults and by Etna accentuate its movement. More and more volcanologists and geologists are spreading the culture of risk among the inhabitants of Etna, in particular among the inhabitants of the “timpas” . Only a conscious and wise way of building, based on anti-seismic techniques, can keep the population safe. Only in this way will life on the plateau continue to be beautiful. (photos by Grazia Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

Airport Transfers