The Nature Reserve Timpa of Acireale, which occupies an area of about 557 acres, is a strip of volcanic terrain overlooking the Ionian coastline and straddling for about six kilometres, all the way from Acque Grandi (a fraction of the municipality of Capomulini) to Santa Maria degli Ammalati (a fraction of the municipality of Acireale). The Timpa is effectively a promontory that can reach a height of up to ±80 metres and is characterised by tiered strata of volcanic rocks, arranged in a stepwise fashion at times, and exhibiting faults due to the sedimentation of distinct magmatic eruptions that have taken place over the millennia.
On the northern part of the Timpa it is possible to find a suggestive grotto, which features interior walls characterised by stunning polyhedric columns of basalt similar to the ones that form the meandering cliffs of the Alcantara Gorges. Embedded at the base of the central part of the Timpa, is the ancient and charming fishermen’s village of Santa Maria La Scala, which can be reached by walk from the town of Acireale via a long stairway that winds its way down to the village crossing through the central part of the reserve.
The territory is by and large unusually well preserved and unpolluted especially in consideration of the fact that it is embedded in a surrounding environment that has been dramatically altered by human activities and the encroaching of technological development. As a result, the flora of the nature reserve is lush and varied and includes typical Mediterranean plants bushes and trees. Fragrant broom bushes, mirth, wild oleaster, wild asparagus, lentiscus, and carob trees are some of the most common species found in the reserve although the most prominent plant is without any doubt the euphorbia arboreal distinguished by its reddish branches and by its captivating, bunched, yellow-green bloom, which can be found growing amidst the rocks and side by side to ivy, clematis, capers and prickly pears.
The lush flora is complemented by a lively assortment of wildlife that thrives undisturbed in the greenery of this unspoilt haven. A rich assortment of insects attracts a varied number of bird species such as blackcaps, great tits, and warblers. A number of reptiles including the ubiquitous Sicilian green lizard and a discrete variety of small mammals like small rodents, mice and hedgehogs also enjoying this habitat, in turn, attract small birds of prey like kestrels and scops owls. Finally, during the migrating season larger birds of prey and herons stopping while on their migratory way to African or European countries can also be sighted, much to the delight of bird-watchers and other nature lovers who find themselves fascinated by the beauty of this unusual and in many ways precious strip of unspoilt natural habitat in an unlikely location.
Written by Tony Sinatra
An outstanding culinary heritage, volcanic soils, kept fertile by mineral-rich volcanic ashes, sub-tropical climatic conditions and the nourishing sunshine of Sicily are the secret ingredients of the delicious Sicilian Cuisine