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For a long time the main tourist “gates” to Mount Etna were Catania – with its airport and station – and Taormina. The large tourist crowds settled in these two locations so to discover Etna by excursions. It has been twenty years, now, since also Riposto has joined them as a tourist gate to Etna, and a very important one too. It is not by mistake that this town between Acireale and Taormina  is also called “the harbour of Etna”!

Riposto was born as a commercial harbour, but recently it has also started the activity of luxury tourist marina. It organized moorings for yachts and private boats plus all tourist services connected. Over it all, Mount Etna dominates like a huge dark mass. The rich people who find a place in this marina can enjoy the show of the eruption reflecting on the water, at night.

Riposto, the harbour of Etna

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the luxury boats marina

Riposto derives from the word “ripostiglio” (storage warehouse). The place was used as a storage and port since ancient times, when the area was part of the County of Mascali. This land produced citrus and wine and used to trade them with the rest of Italy. Riposto as a town, though, was founded in the 18th century as soon as the many pirates attacks in the Mediterranean stopped. Then the coast became a safe place where to live.

The wealthy entrepreneurs from Messina and Acireale immediately populated the area of ??the former port of Mascali precisely to take advantage of that trade place. Also for this reason the center of Riposto is full of palaces and churches of great elegance. You can see it already in the main square overlooked by the Town Hall and the church of St Peter, both in a classic nineteenth-century style. There is no shortage of shops, events, cafés and restaurants, especially on the spacious Pantano Seafront promenade which also runs along the tourist port. The yacht area is served by elegant cafes directly overlooking the piers.

For those who love culture, Riposto also offers two interesting museums: the  Museum of Wine and the Kentie Botanical Park. In an anonymous street near the port  there is a simple house where, however, one of the greatest masters of music and philosophy in the world was born: Franco Battiato. The recently deceased maestro was a citizen of this town. At the time of his birth, in the Fascist era – though – the town had been merged with nearby Giarre for some years, with the unique name of Jonia.

The popular beaches of Etna

The city beach of Riposto in the hamlet of Torre Archirafi – south of the seafront – consists of

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etna seen from Fondachello beach

black lava rocks. Tourists do not always like rocks, although the water there is much richer in algae and cleaner, and they seek the convenience of sandy beaches. Not far from Riposto – north of the seafront – there are large beaches of very fine gravel, equally suitable for families with children and for people who like to lie in the sun.

The most popular are the beaches of Fondachello and Sant’Anna. Large meters of these beaches are free beaches and also allow for a minimum of bivouac. It is not uncommon to see people having lunch, dinner and sometimes even sleeping on these beaches. Fondachello and Sant’Anna are actually part of the nearby municipality of Mascali, but their large expanse of gravel naturally flanks the port of Riposto. From these beaches you can enjoy a unique view, with the great summit craters of Etna that seem almost close to the coast. And the eruptions seen from here are truly impressive!

Wild beaches a stone’s throw from the volcano

Going further, towards Giardini and Taormina, the beaches become larger and wilder. Few services but a lot of splendid nature enrich the beaches of Marina di Cottone and San Marco. There you can see the eucalyptus woods that invade the sand and enjoy the Fiumefreddo river and its protected reserve.   This is the territory of the municipality of Fiumefreddo di Sicilia, but the link with Riposto continues thanks to the road and the cycle path that stops here before entering Giardini Naxos.

The beaches of Marina di Cottone and San Marco are for those seeking peace, intimacy and total immersion in nature, without distractions or noise. Here the Ionian sea is alive, sometimes even violent. The wider exposure towards the open sea means that there are many, and powerful, tides that touch the coast. So you have to be an expert swimmer and be very careful anyway, to get the beauty of this spacious “sandy Eden” in exchange.

If you do not like cold water you better avoid San Marco. The beach is located between the mouths of the Fiumefreddo and the Alcantara rivers, which means that the water in front of this beach is icy and almost sweet. Sports enthusiasts, however, find San Marco very interesting. It allows you to practice a lot of physical exercise and even a cold bath, in the end, completing the workout with a total toning! The only negative note … the view of Etna, from here, is almost absent and in any case less impressive. (photos by Grazia Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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