Just when I was getting tired of the same old playgrounds, my husband's spontaneity won again. I never would have believed that a visit to the port of Acitrezza, the town next door to Aci Castello, would be a good spot for anything other than sitting in a restaurant and eating seafood. But, it actually makes for a great outdoor outing, toddler in tow, with plenty of ground to cover.
First off, Acitrezza feels like a real fishing port. Meaning there is action and grime and seafood smells, perhaps not always pleasant, but very authentic and attractive to small children (and pigeons...and stray cats). The port extends all along the town's seafront boardwalk-esque sidewalk, and is filled with a mish-mash of boats, big and small, with boat repair going on and lots of small boats going in and out from fishing expeditions. In other words, plenty of 'broom-brooms' to keep a 'broom-broom' obsessed little boy happy.
There is also diversity of terrain. We started off in the lovely stone-paved piazza. Here there is a pretty drinking fountain, steps for climbing, old men chatting amongst each other, of course pigeons, great views of the largest boats, and a kiosk for beverages. A quick detour up to the street and down the sidewalk leads to plenty of fun - a small fountain with two large goldfish. This may have been our toddler's favorite spot of the day, and for the adults, it is just in front of a pretty little church that you may want to peak into.
We then took the steep stairs from the piazza down to the waterfront and headed south. Here you can choose from a stroll on the sidewalk or a few grassy/rocky paths to get close up to the big boats, as well as a wide open boat parking lot at the far end for more open spaces and no traffic, and a long quay. We took the liberty to let the toddler climb in a few boats not to mention the garbage truck that happened to be doing its rounds, and also peak over the shoulder of the lone fisherman (probably scaring away all the fish in the process--oops!).
To the north of the piazza, follow the road that curves around the bend and opens onto a large car parking lot (you may want to park here, we did). This is where you'll find fish being sold out of the backs of cars, stray cats hiding under the parked trucks snacking on their finds, and the occasional dog walker. I like to think of this as the Sicilian equivalent to a trip to PetCo! It certainly provided as much entertainment for our kid as the pet store in NYC did.
And for some Greek mythology and special Sicilian scenery, all this takes place right in front of the beautiful lava rock islands, the isole dei Ciclopi (the Cyclops Islands). As taken from Wikipedia, "According to local legend, these great stones are the ones thrown at Odyssesus in the Odessy. The islands are referred to as the "isole dei ciclopi" (islands of the Cyclops) by locals. This compliments the notion that the Cyclops once had a smithy in Mount Etna, which looms over the village to the northwest." I also read that here the Cyclops manufactured the lighting bolts for Zeus and other important items like the armour of Achilles.