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The town of Mascali is situated to the east of Sicily. In the shadow of Mount Etna, the town has suffered over the centuries from both earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
A great deal of the town was rebuilt after Mount Etna erupted in November 1928 and destroyed a significant part of historic Mascali. After this destruction Mascali was rebuilt a few years later further downstream with an urban checkerboard layout influenced both by towns in Sicily dating from the 16th - 18th centuries and also by the new towns planned by the Fascist regime for the Colonies.
The Cathedral Church in Mascali, dedicated to the patron saint San Leonardo, was consecrated in 1935. This cathedral Church has three naves and in its iterior preserves a marble statue dating from the 18th century, depicting Saint Leonard the patron saint of the town.
In the Old Town you can still see the ruins of an ancient watchtower, with a square base which reflects the Gothic style. It was made with volcanic rocks but it was severely damaged by earthquakes, which caused the loss of the upper part of the tower.
Around the slopes of Etna in the village called Nunziata there is the Church of the ‘Nunziatella, dating from the 12th century and with frescoes including one depicting Christ Pantocrator.
L. Mauro wrote about this church "[...] following ancient paths and away from the busy tourist routes we meet, in a land destroyed by eruptions and earthquakes, the remains of a church decorated with old Norman Byzantine-style frescoes".
Ancient churches around Mascali - the temple of Saint Stephen
In the territory around Mascali there are also other remains of ancient religious buildings that were once present in significant quantities in this area before being devastated by eruptions.
One of these was the so-called 'Cella Trichora' of St. Stephen, described by G. Vecchio: "In the area of Santa Venerina (...) is still possible to contemplate the ruins of the temple of Santo Stefano, consisting of a space with three apses, preceded by a large narthex (...) it seems that it dates from the fifth or sixth-eighth century AD". The only ancient reference to the temple of St. Stephen is in the 'Historia Sicula' by Nicola Speciale, who lived between 1270 and 1340, who described the terrifying lava flow between 1284 and 1285 which swept the monastery:
"So, really marvelous in the eyes of the spectators, the volcano erupted a Fire of lava, which, wonderful to say, expanding it along the slopes of the mountain like a flood, it surrounded the church dedicated to St. Stephen (...) However, the lava did not hit all over, which still seems a miracle" (See G Vecchio, p. 297).
This church is of Byzantine style, as evidenced by the three-lobed shape; it was also covered with a domed ceiling, now totally disappeared (G. Vecchio, p. 302).
Attractions around Mascali
We conclude by noting that the territory of Mascali occupies a strategic position in terms of tourism, thanks to its ten villages and all set in a landscape of great value that ranges from the hills of the Park of Etna to the Ionian Sea, just 30 km from Catania and 15 km from Taormina.
We also mention Fondachello and S. Anna, characterized by their clear waters and beaches that offer quality services to the most demanding tourist.
Near the sea, the natural environment is called "Gurna", a damp area in the mouth of the river Simeto, with a very diverse flora and fauna, characterized by lentil with ferns, rushes and reeds. The fauna is mostly composed of birds, like the marsh hawk, the royal swans and herons.
Finally we should also mention the wine of Mascali. Among the most popular wines note in particular the 'Nerello di Mascali', which is always accompanied by various fish dishes, especially during the mid-August "Festival of the fish."
See also history of Mascali
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.