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City of Acireale

Carnival 2017 – Photo Petra Sappa

Its name comes from Greek mythology, in particular from the character Aci. He was a shepherd fallen in love with nymph Galatea, in turn in love with Polifemo that squashed poor Aci under a boulder.
From Aci’s blood, the Akis river was born, so called by Greeks, mainly subterranean.

During several phases of evolution, the name of the city passed by Jachium, under Byzantine domination, to Al Yag under Arabians and Aci d’Aquila (or Aquilia) with Spanish.
In 14th century, the city settled in the current land (previously next to the Aci’s castle, nowadays Aci Castello) under the name of Aquilia Vetere before, and Aquilia Nuova later.

Story goes that Acireale and other Aci originated from Xiphonia, a mysterious Greek town now disappeared. Poets Virgilio and Ovidio related the rise of the town with the love story between Galatea and Aci, in a jealous rage of Polifemo.

In Roman age, a city called Akis rose up in the same land, participating later to the Punic Wars.
In Middle Ages the village consolidated next to the Aci’s Castle and, only long after (300), some families moved on the North zone, where later Aquilia (Aci d’Aquila) or Aquilia Nuova was born.
The 500 was a fundamental century for Aquilia Nuova, thanks to the consolidation of a strong trading class, that took big richness in town, and several religious orders that leaved a so clear mark to let the city get the name of “One hundred bells town”.

«Acireale is a sort of Medieval Avignone, headquarter of many corporations, orders, monasteries, colleges and even six catholic high school ( in addition to the national one)…»

(Carlo Levi – Tracks of Memory)

In 1528, the plea to Carlo V was presented. In 1531 the city became state-owned, getting rid of Baron Mastrantonio. In 1640 it was split in two different towns: Aci-Aquilia and Aci Santi Antonio e Filippo.
On January 11 1693, the city was damaged by a terrific earthquake that upset South-Est Sicily.

Photo Petra Sappa

In 1528, the plea to Carlo V was presented. In 1531 the city became state-owned, getting rid of Baron Mastrantonio. In 1640 it was split in two different towns: Aci-Aquilia and Aci Santi Antonio e Filippo.
On January 11 1693, the city was damaged by a terrific earthquake that upset South-Est Sicily. In 1848 it was been one of the most important headquarter of the Sicilian uprisings. In 1873, with the openings of the Santa Venera thermal establishment and the Grand Hotel des Bains, Acireale earned huge reputation. Since 1837 it was administrative center of Acireale District, later abolished by the Fascist regim in 1927.

On November 30 2005 Acireale gets the title of “city”.
Nowadays it’s known thanks to its Carnival that attract a lot of people from Sicily and Calabria, coming to see the artisan masks and the parades of the flowers covered floats.

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