It didn't take long to figure out that Aci Castello is a great town to have down the road.
In just three mintues I can stroll out the door with toddler in tow and be in the most beautiful AND kid-friendly piazza in the Catania area. On any given day I find the Norman castle which towers over the piazza and the breathtaking coastal views which can be seen from Piazza Castello to be uplifting and rejuvenating.
Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents and whole families bring their kids to this piazza to play. No traffic, the serene setting, the year-round mini carnival, many benches and lovely sea breezes make this an idyllic setting for kids and adults alike. And of course dog owners, and the local older folk, and tourists who come to climb the castle and maybe have a gelato at one of the three cafes along the piazza.
Since there is no playground, kids bring their own entertainment--anything with wheels, balls and bubbles seem to be the most popular. The pigeons, dogs, other kids and carneval usually provide plenty entertainment for my kid. As do the water fountains, cigarette butts and other not for touching items that unfortuantely litter the ground. However, now that he is almost a year and half, his desire to do all 'no-no's' just to see what mommy will do seems to be dwindling. Phew.
During the week, late morning (10ish) and late afternoon-early evening (4-6ish) seem to be the mostly lively times of day in the piazza. The weekends can be even livelier and down right crowded with kids, especially in the summer. Earlier in the morning or on very windy or overcast days I can sometimes find myself completely alone in the piazza, which can be very peaceful, but not very entertaining for baby.
In short, Piazza Castello will give you some local flavor while providing a great open space for your kid to run around in and have some fun. A visit to the Norman castle can add a bit of history to your visit to the piazza and is definately worth the effort and the bargain 1 Euro 50 ticket price--great views, interesting architecture, panoramic garden, and a funky musuem.
Other recommendations for Aci Castello:
- A wander through the alleyways and main stone paved street just behind the piazza are fun. You really can't get lost, it is so small.
- The best and only real trattoria is actually REALLY good, La Bettola. Try the pasta with swordfish (pesce spada) and pistacchio nuts.
- The best granita and brioche can be had at Viscuso (named il 'Cavaliere' by the locals), the oldest bar in Aci Castello on Via Re Martino 101, across the street from the main church.
- Also along this same road you'll find many of the towns local shops, including a great bakery (panificio), a great fruit and vegetable shop (fruttivendolo), a great seafood market, Azzurra Fish (pescivendolo). Check them out!