Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches

1st Jun 2014
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 1/8 by Kara
Entrance to the Grotta Smeralda Lido
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 2/8 by Kara
View of the water
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 3/8 by Kara
Isola Lachae, Acitrezza
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 4/8 by Kara
The Ciclope Lido
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 5/8 by Kara
Scogliera cat
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 6/8 by Kara
Acicastello's free access rocky 'beach': a fa
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 7/8 by Kara
Photo of Swim like a local: Catania's rocky beaches 8/8 by Kara
Catanese swimming spot at Scogliera

Weclome to Catania's rocky beaches! Also known as the Scogliera or la Riva dei Ciclope (Cyclopes Riveria). Mostly everyone who comes for a visit is initially startled by these so-called rocky 'beaches'. They just don't feel like beaches! There is no room for beach combing (but you can go rock hopping!). There is nowhere comfortable to lie down (that's why lidos, or private beach clubsbuild wooden platforms over the rocks in the summer and rent lounge chairs). And it can be tricky to get into the water (that's why little staircases are suspended from rocks or wooden platforms to make it easier to get in!). But, if you have an open mind, are willing to give Catania's rocky beaches a try, and are mentally prepared to experience rockiness before you get here, then you just might find yourself a convert like I have. 

This rocky, cliffy landscape stretches from Catania to Acireale and was created by past eruptions on Mt. Etna when the hot lava flowed down its slopes and into the sea. According to my beloved Blue Guide, lava reached the sea in 396 BC, 1169, 1329 and 1381, each time drastically changing the shape and appearance of the land, coast and beaches. 

The result is a strip of gray-black coast formed of basalt rock boulders, stones and pebbles. If you take the time to explore and look closer you'll discover that these rocks are varied in shape, size and texture, and they are jumbled together in an unending array of unexpected configurations forming secluded coves, arches and even small caves. Plus, they're fun to climb on!

And the water? Deep blue-green, transparent and beautiful. This area is great for snorkeling, spotting little coastal fish and other sea creatures like starfish, sea snails, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs, and even eels slithering along the bottom if you have a good eye.

If you drive or walk along Via Aicastello (street map here) keep your eyes open for paths that lead from the sidewalk down onto the rocks. Any of these are potential free spots for laying out on the rocks and taking a dip in the refreshing water. This spot is a real favorite among the locales. From the road, next to the Lido Bellatrix, there is a small path that will lead you down to a staircase and some easy to walk on boulders that provide a secluded spot for a swim. Find a smooth rock to spread your towel on and watch the locals to see the best way to get in and out of the water.
Photo of La Scogliera, Via Angelo Musco, Aci Castello, Catania, Italy by Kara
From the main piazza, underneath the castle, is an area of lava rock that forms a flat plateau perfect for sunbathing, fishing and easy access to the sea. Climb down the stairs and ramble over the rocks to find a spot that you like. Here the rocks are pretty bumpy, so good water shoes are a must to protect your feet. The locals love it here too and you'll have the thrill of swimming beneath a Norman castle for a truly unique experience.
Photo of Aci Castello, Catania, Italy by Kara
In this sweet fishing town the waterfront boardwalk consists of private lidos, a working fishing port and free spots for swimming. Talk a walk along the boardwalk to see what appeals to you. Or, even better, pay a few euros to one of the fishermen at the port to be boated across the bay to the little island known as Isola Lachae. Here the water is crystalline turquoise blue and wonderful for snorkeling. You'll be able to experience the best of the Cyclopes Riviera away from the crowds of the lidos. In the summer many small boats anchor around here to enjoy the beautiful water so do be careful when you are out for your swim.
Photo of Aci Trezza, Catania, Italy by Kara
This is a small little beach club but very sweet. I enjoyed our day here very much and loved the long wooden stairs that lead you down to the secluded cove you can access here for a luxurious swim. There is very little information about this lido on the internet, but if you are looking for a smaller, less chaotic local establishment, this one might be your kind of style.
Photo of La Grotta Smeralda by Kara
This mega lido has been around forever and is much loved by the Catanese. It feels like a little village and does get very crowded in the summer. This lido is just next to Acitrezza and the rocky shore is more pebbly than cliffy, so if cliffs are not appealing to you this might be an easy way for you to enjoy a swim in the sea with all the amenities your heart desires at your fingertips. I used to come here when my son was little because of the swimming pool and playground on the premises. We also enjoyed going on walks along the shaded paths to explore the different sections of the lido, which in addition to the pool include a large seafront area, a fish pond, changing areas, and several bars.
Photo of Via Ciclope, Bronte, Catania, Italy by Kara