Discovering the Land of the Cyclops: A Journey Through Myth, Art and Nature in Eastern Sicily
The legend of the Faraglioni dei Ciclopi (The Cyclops Stacks/Rocks) is narrated by Homer in the Odyssey where the mythological incident placed tradition in Aci Trezza. In the Homeric tale, Ulysses comes across Polyphemus during his journey, one of the ferocious cyclops (monstrous and gigantic shepherds with one eye), that dominate the valleys of Etna. The Greek hero manages to blind the giant with a pointed wooden pole and to escape with his companions thanks to various tricks. The cyclop, in a last jolt of anger, throws large boulders towards Ulysses’ ship without hitting him, thus giving rise to the Faraglioni of Acitrezza (Acitrezza Rocks of the Cyclops).
This tour will take you to the places of the Homeric myth where you will discover the origins of Etna and the tales of a great Sicilian writer.
You willl walk in the places of Ulysses to the Castle of Aci, a path of myth, discovering the origins of Etna and the literature of Verga.
Best season : All year round
Included / Not Included
Assistance upon arrival at the airport in Catania
Car rental with insurance
4 nights in a 3-start minimum hotel
4 dinners at the hotel
3 Entrances to Museums
Visit to Etna's summit craters by Jeep 4X4
Travel accessories and telephone with Italian SIM
Directions and suggestions for best bars and restaurants
Telephone assistance in Italian, English, Spanish and French
Flights to/from your home city
Meals where not mentioned
Travel Insurance (strongly recommended)
Upon your arrival to the airport or station in Catania, you will find an Italy-Trails representative who will welcome you and give you the travel material where you will also collect the rental car, which you will need for travel during the tour. You will then arrive at the hotel, where you can leave your luggage and rest for a while. Later, you can visit the Norman Castle of Aci. The basaltic promontory where the castle stands was once separated from the mainland by an arm of the sea, which was completely bridged by the 1169 eruption. The castle was originally a fortification of Roman origin, called Castrum Jacis, presumably dating back to 38 AD, serving to protect the population from raids that came by surprise by sea. In the seventh century AD (according to some in the 6th century), the Byzantines built another fortress over the existing one and a couple of centuries later, the castle fell into the hands of the Arabs and then passed under Norman rule. Inside the castle, there is the Civic Museum, inaugurated in 1985, which offers an intriguing journey into the past. After visiting the Castle, you can observe the lava rock on which it was built. Along the walls, pillows and cushions of a more or less spherical shape can be recognized, originating from the opening of a fracture in the seabed. This is a peculiarity observable only in three other places in the world.
Night in the hotel.
In the morning after breakfast, you will visit Catania’s Roman theater, located in the historic center of the city of Etna. Its current appearance dates back to the 2nd century DC, although its origins are more ancient (4th century BC). To the east, it borders a small theater called The Odeon.
Classical sources make reference to the theater in Catania regarding the consultation of the Sicilian city by Alcibiade which, in 415 AC, held a speech to the civic assembly gathered right in the theater.
You will then visit Terme della Rotonda, or Rotonda’s Thermal Baths, a vast monumental complex including thermal structures from the Roman era, from the 1st and 2nd century AD, which was later transformed into a church in the Byzantine era.
You can then move to the monastery of San Nicolò la Rena (rena refers to the red sand of volcanic origin in the area), an ecclesiastical complex consisting of a Benedictine building and a monumental eighteenth-century church. Founded by monks from the monastery of the same name located near Nicolosi, the monastery resides on what was the acropolis of the city in Greek and Roman times. In fact, the excavations carried out inside revealed important archaeological structures.
To stay on topic, you can visit the Archaeological Museum of the University of Catania, founded in 1898 from a site consisting of ten ancient objects from the excavations of Megara Hyblaea. Today, the Museum houses pieces belonging to the private collection of Guido Libertini, the first Archeology professor of the University of Catania (since 1923) who, between the 1920s and 1940s, gave the University the discoveries coming mostly from the areas of Centuripe (where the scholar carried out the excavations) and Etna, all of which are precious testimonies of Greek and Roman Catania.
Night in the hotel.
In the morning after breakfast, you will transfer to Acitrezza. From the port, you will board the boat for your trip to the Cyclops islands. The Lachea island, formed after the eruption of an underwater volcano about 500,000 years ago, is the largest of the islands that make up the Cyclops Archipelago. Ellipsoidal in shape, it is 250 meters long and 150 meters wide, for a total area just under 2 hectares and a maximum altitude of 35 meters. Present in classical and modern literature, it retains traces of ancient settlements, such as a precious diorite ax dating back to the Stone Age. It also houses a lush vegetation rich in endemic plants and a particular species of lizard that is only found on this island. The boat will stop to allow you to take a refreshing swim offshore, from where you can admire the columnar basalts, formed by the growing of magmatic basalt columns on the surface, particularly appreciable for the extraordinary neatness of the cut because of the slow and even cooling process, they crystallized giving rise to gray prismatic columns, one after another. These columnar bodies represent the remains of a larger sub-volcanic body originated by solidification from a magmatic mass of about 500,000 years ago.
After the boat trip, you will visit the Casa del Nespolo Museum, not far from the Patron Church. This is the home of Padron ‘Ntoni, described by Verga in the Malavoglia, where today a small museum has been set up containing objects of the maritime tradition and a photographic section dedicated to the film by Luchino Visconti based on the Verga novel.
Night in the hotel.
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