Length: 760 m
Level of difficulty: medium
Average time of completion: 1 hr
The Chiazzette trail is the most accessible for those who would like to visit the beauties of the Reserve. In the past, the trail started from Piazza del Duomo, across via Romeo (at that time, Via della Marina) and the neighborhood of Madonna del Suffragio, then heading down the track to the picturesque fishing village of Santa Maria La Scala. Today, coming from via Romeo, you need to cross the recently constructed bridge on the SS114 to walk through the tiny street (now Via Tocco) and enjoy the beautiful views offered by the Ionian coast.
Winding through seven hairpin turns, the trail allows us to easily overcome the 150-metre height difference separating Acireale’s upland plain from the coast below. Rearranged on an existing route in the seventeenth century, the path has been enriched with special arched retaining walls and ramps up to six metres wide. For over two centuries it was the most important and historical road connection between Acireale and the village, rich in fresh water springs and home to a marina.
At the entrance of the trail (off the SS 114), to the right of a short flight of steps beside a short slide rises a shrine devoted to the Sacred Image of Mary. The little cobbled path is adorned with specimens of Robinia pseudoacacia, what is left of about 400 trees that, in a double line, shaded the ancient strada della Marina.
On the first “square” you can see a monumental Plane tree specimen, estimated to be over 150 years old.Past the bend, continue on the first ramp of Chiazzette, on whose background you can see La Fortezza del Tocco (“The Tocco Fortress”): a stronghold built in the first half of the seventeenth century, now home to the visitor centre of this protected area. Looking out from it, you will be amazed by the wide stretch of coast in front of you.On the fourth ramp is the chapel devoted to SS. Crocifisso della Buona Nuova, dating back to the early nineteenth century.From the seventh to the final ramp you can walk along two alternative trails: going straight, you reach the square of the charming seaside village; taking the path on the right (called Via Miuccio), you reach the homonymous beach.The path leading to the main square of the village, where is the Mother Church, is the original one: downstream, it goes along the village and, upstream, it sides the buttresses of the Timpa, along which are the entrances of a few houses.The second option goes down zigzagging towards the coast with 18 narrow and short hairpin turns, with no parapets and along which we can find some saplings of Hackberry. The path leads into a large courtyard (called Miuccio), where is located Mulino Testa dell’Acqua (Head of Water Mill).
Along the whole of the Chiazzette trail you can observe some typical plants of the Reserve: besides the Caper and the Hackberry, we can find the Euphorbia, the Alaternus, the Ailanthus (invasive exotic species), the Elah and the Prickly Pear. Unique is the luxuriant spontaneous peopling of another exotic species: the Paper Mulberry or Broussonetia Papyrifera, imported from Japan in the eighteenth century as a shade tree. In its country of origin it is grown for commercial purposes, as from its bark is made a special type of very resistant paper, used for the banknote printing.