Acitrezza & Acireale (CT)

The towns along the "Riviera dei Ciclopi" between Fiumefreddo and Catania are for the most part unexciting. The twin towns of Giarre (inland) and Riposto (port) are where the Circumetnea railway terminates - if you are doing a complete circuit you have to get an ordinary train from here back to Catania. In Riposto I once bought a large quantity of limpets, thinking to cook a local variant of spaghetti alle vongole with them: I only managed a few, but they were very popular with Daphne's dog, Zito.

The towns called Aci something or other are allegedly named for the river Aci, into which the shepherd Acis, beloved of Galatea, was transformed after Polyphemus had battered him to death with a rock. Acireale - one of the towns destroyed in the 1693 earthquake, and rebuilt in fine baroque style - is worth avisit for the architecture and the cliff-top situation. Aci Trezza has some large rocks just off the coast - supposedly they are the ones ripped from Etna by the Polyphemus to hurl at Odysseus, just after he'd been blinded by him, and who was attempting to sail away sharpish. Aci Castellol has a photogenic castle.

One unique thing at Acireale is the puppet theatre. Daphne was recruited as "godmother" to the puppets by Emanuele Macrì, the tutor of the present puparo [puppet master], Turi Grasso, and supported the venture wholeheartedly (although she couldn't afford to do so financially). Emanuele had himself inherited the puppets from Mariano Pennisi, who as well as being the Acireale puppet master,was a champion cyclist. When news came through in 1908 of the devastating earthquake in Messina, he leapt on his bike to try and rescue his friends, the Macrì family - to whose baby son he had recently become godfather. Alas, along with 80,000 others his friends and their family were dead - apart from the two-year old boy, Emanuele, whom Mariano pulled from the wreckage, and took back to Acireale to bring up as his own son. When Mariano died in his late sixties, Emanuele was ready to take over. For an exciting account of a performance in2006 - yes the same pupi are still working -see Maryellen's blog for 21 January 2006 scroll down to("Puppet Carnage")which also has some striking pictures.

The faraglioni off Aci Trezza


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