May 14 – 16, 2024
INAF - Catania Astrophysical Observatory
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Sicilian East Coast

Aside the meeting you can enjoy some tourism in Sicily. The proposed itinerary runs from Taormina down to Ibla (the old Ragusa) on the Sicilian East Coast, here are some suggestions.


"There is all that seems created to seduce eyes, mind and imagination” said the French writer Guy de Maupassant describing Taormina. The first impression that you have of this town, on the north east coast of Sicily, confirms his description. Just 40 kilometers from Messina, Taormina is located 200 meters above sea level, overlooking the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Europe. The town is characterized by lovely streets, squares and buildings such as Palazzo Corvaja, wonderful architectural examples of the fifteenth century in Gothic-Catalan style, and the baroque church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria.

The landmark is the Greek Theatre (III century BC.), a wonder to behold. Built in a beautiful scenic spot, the theater is the second largest of Sicily after the one in Siracusa. Here one can attend the main cultural events of the summer season as the Taormina Arte, the international festival of arts, widely appreciated for its of program of concerts, ballets, dramas and cinema.


To reach the sea you can take the cable car from the town to the beach of Mazzarò, an inlet of rare beauty bordered by Capo Sant’Andrea, beyond which there is Isola Bella, beloved by locals and tourists.




Driving south for less than one hour towards Catania, you can cross the east coast and reach Acitrezza.  This village overlooks the “Riviera dei Ciclopi”, in front of which there are three tall, column-shaped islands.  According to local legend, these great stones are the ones thrown by the Cyclops at Odysseus in The Odyssey. This little fishermen town is also the set of «I Malavoglia», the Sicilian novelist Giovanni Verga’s most famous novel, and of Luchino Visconti’s neo-realist movie “La terra trema”, based on Verga’s artwork.


Catania lies a few kilometers to the south of Acitrezza. Via Etnea is the main street that runs through the city. Walking along this street you can appreciate the charm of the city, whose baroque old town was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002. For example, you can see the “Chiesa della Collegiata” Church, also known as the Church of Santa Maria Santissima dell’Elemosina, whose baroque façade is wonderful. A few steps ahead you find the main square of the city, “piazza Duomo”, with the patronal Church, i.e. the “Duomo”, dedicated to Saint Agatha.

In front of the Duomo, at the center of the square, there is «u Liotru», symbol of Catania: the statue of an elephant holding a marble obelisk. The work was carried out in 1737 by architect Giovanni Battista Vaccarini, and represents three civilizations: the Punic (the elephant is the symbol of the defeat of the Carthaginians), the Egyptian (with the presence of the obelisk, brought to Catania at the time of Crusades) and the Christian, with the cross mounted on top of the obelisk.



At the corner of this square there is the fountain of Amenano, which takes its name from the underground river that flows beneath the city.







Until lunchtime the square and the streets around host benches and banquets with fishermen selling their fish. The market is one of the most characteristic places in Catania.



While enjoying the city, you can taste the famous “arancini” and stop in the many kiosks scattered a bit everywhere to quench your thirst with some “seltz, limone e sale”, a traditional drink made with lemon juice, soda and salt.


From Catania, the drive continues to the south where, after an hour drive, you reach Siracusa. The charming town was, in its glorious past, one of the largest metropolis of the ancient world and the capital of the island during the Roman and Byzantine periods. Siracusa is outstanding from the historical, archeological and naturalistic point of view, such that in 2005 it became a World Heritage Site.

The island of Ortigia is the oldest part of the city, and hosts the Archbishop’s Palace, the Church of San Martino and the Church of Saint Lucia, the protector of the city. In Siracusa, do not miss the Temple of Apollo, considered the oldest temple in Sicily, which over time has undergone several modifications becoming church, mosque and church again, depending on the religion of the rulers.


A few days are not enough to explore the many wonders of Siracusa, such as the Archaeological Park of Neapolis, the Greek Theatre, the Castle of Euryalus and the Ear of Dionysius. Last but not least, Siracusa is surrounded by beautiful coast lines: the oasis of Plemmirio, the beach of Arenella and the Fontane Bianche.

From Siracusa you can quickly reach the province of Ragusa, which is now famous worldwide as the film set of the “Inspector Montalbano” movie series. Going from Ragusa Ibla to Modica and Scicli, you will visit the towns rebuilt after the catastrophic earthquake in 1693 in the Sicilian Baroque style, and listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.


For more information don’t hesitate to ask us for some advice!


Credits: adapted from “Da Taormina a Siracusa. Le perle dell'East Coast” di Massimo Panico - la Repubblica, 23 agosto 2014. Translation by S. Spinella and G. Scandariato.