A few kilometers from Catania, overlooking the sea, stands Acitrezza, the little town that we knew during our school reading Giovanni Verga’s book, “I Malavoglia”. The house of Nespolo, where the humble family of fishermen led by Padron ‘Ntoni lived, is still today one of the symbolic places of these lands. The town is very different from the village described by Verga, today it is an enchanting seaside village.
Acitrezza has always been at the center of myths and legends, it is also the protagonist of the ninth canto of the Odyssey, the poem written by Omero. According to the poet, the rocks that are in the sea in front of the town are the stones thrown by Polyphemus at Ulysses after he had made him blind.
This area is protected by the “Riserva Naturale integrata nella Regione Sicilia” for its historical and naturalistic interest. The marine area is particularly popular by scuba divers.
On the island live a lot of birds and the Podarcis Siculus Ciclopica, the red-necked lizard, a very rare species that lives only here and on the nearby Scoglio della Madonnina
In the stretch of sea in front of Acitrezza there are the “faraglioni“: eight rocks, the largest of which is the one called “Isola Lachea“, of volcanic origin, is 250 meters long and 150 meters wide.
How to reach the island
Once in Acitrezza, go to the port, you will find small boats that over and over again shuttle between the mainland and the island. The transport is managed directly by local fishermen: for 3 euros each (payment on return) accompany you and come to pick you up at the agreed time.
They usually drop you on the “beach” in front of the town, they tell us there is another quieter beach on the other side.
If you have a car you can park near the port, there are many pay and display parking (blue lines).
What to do on Lachea Island
The island has no beaches, it is made up of rocks, there is a single micro beach to the right of where you will be drop-off: the beach is very small so I advise you to go to the island early in the morning, by 10:00, in this way you should be able to find a place for your beach towel.
The seabed is rich in fish, therefore snorkelers will have a lot of fun: starfish, …….
Lachea island is not inhabited, there are buildings for the “Museo della stazione Studi sul Mare”, inside there are archaeological finds found in the area, a vast collection of marine and terrestrial fauna, ….
The park authority also organized guided excursions on the island, when we went (July 2020) the visits had been suspended due to crumbling rocks.
In the summer months the island is quite crowded, especially the area around the landing place.
On the island you will find shaded areas created by the rocks, access to the sea is not very comfortable, there are slippery boulders so I recommend that you bring your shoes.
There is nothing apart from the museum, so you will have to be independent: remember to bring water and something to eat.
I probably had too many expectations so I was a little disappointed:
- only uncomfortable and hot rocks,
- too many people, and it was Monday in July, I can’t imagine August or weekend.
- uncomfortable entry into the water
- too many boats: rafts and boats are parked around the island, be very careful if you snorkel.
- Shaded areas are few and too crowded
If like us you are used to snorkeling in tropical seas, you will be disappointed by the seabed and the fauna: many fish but not multicolored. We were lucky, we saw a red starfish.
If I could go back, instead of going to the island by boat, I would rent a pedalo or a canoe at the beach resort opposite the island and explore the island in this way.
Definitely less crowded and cooler. Prices should be 10 euros per hour for pedalo and 5 euros per hour for canoes.
In the afternoon we went to Catania for a short tour to old town, it is very beautiful.
Piazza Duomo: is the heart of Catania, in this pedestrian area there are the duomo (cathedral of Sant’Agata) and the town hall.
Fontana dell’Elefante (o Liotru): the most famous monument in Catania.
Fontana dell’Amenano: it takes its name from the Amenano river which flows underground. The people of Catania call this fountain “acqua a linzolu” because the water from the fountain pouring into the river like a small waterfall produces a suggestive and characteristic “sheet” effect and also because in the past the commoners used to wash their laundry in the river from this channel.
If you want to taste the best arancini in the city, I suggest you the “Pasticceria Savia“, in the center of Catania. Unfortunately we went to Catania on Monday, the day the pastry shop was closed, and we were unable to taste them. Those who have tried them said that they are fantastic, especially the Catania-style ones with aubergines.
Slushes are good everywhere, the typical one is mulberry. Try it!
We stayed in Fiumefreddo at Veda Elegant Rooms, a nice B&B with swimming pool to relax. We had two bedrooms with bathroom, in the structure there is a comfortable common kitchen if you want to have dinner at home. The rooms are clean and equipped with mosquito nets, there is a private parking, nearby you will find shops and supermarkets. It is conveniently located both to reach Etna and to reach the Gole di Alcantara and to reach Catania.
Where to eat
On the advice of the owner of the B&B, we always dined at the “Tana dell’orso” restaurant in Calatabiano, a small village a few kilometers from Fiumefreddo. The tables are outdoors across the street, all the dishes we tried were excellent, especially the pizza. I advise you to book in advance, the tables are few and always full.
How to dress
What to bring
In addition to your camera, remember to take sunscreen and a hat.
Mask and fins if you want to do snorkeling.
There are no refreshment points on the island, make sure you have water and something to eat before reaching it.