A guide to Randazzo; the gate to the Alcantara valley
The beautiful Medieval town of Randazzo is located at the intersection of the Northwest slopes of Mt Etna, the wild Nebrodi Mountains, and the Alcantara River. Randazzo encloses in the narrow streets, churches, and buildings, thousands of years of history, while a wild rich nature surrounds the town's borders. Randazzo is not far from Taormina's main tourist hub and the coastal town of Giardini Naxos, while the international Airport of Fontarossa is just 70 kilometers away. Randazzo is an excellent location for a week's holiday away from mass tourism. Like the Alcantara river, Mount Etna and other smaller villages like Castiglione di Sicilia can be reached in less than thirty minutes. The three locations Etna, Randazzo, and Alcantara gorges offer an unmissable opportunity to see some fine medieval architecture of the Mediterranean basin and be immersed in the beautiful countryside of this part of Sicily.
What to see in Randazzo
The Cattedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
Santa Maria's cathedral is the principal worship place in Randazzo, built in the Gothic - Norman style. This Church is located in the homonymous square. The beginning of this Church's construction, made in lava rock, dates back to the medieval time when Sicily's island was under the short reign German Aristocratic Family of the "Swabian." Most of the current structures' construction dates back to the period between 1217 and 1239, as evidenced by an epigraph in Gothic characters carved in the base of a sacristy pillar. The two main doors on the north and south side of the Medieval cathedral were added by the Spanish Aragons Family around the 14th century. In 1589 the temple underwent the first transformation inside by the great Tuscan architect Andrea Calamech. The artist oversaw the reconstruction design according to Renaissance stylistic features of Brunelleschi's influence with Sicilian-Catalan elements. The intervention involved the temple's enlargement with the transformation to three naves, divided by monolithic basalt columns and a Latin cross plan. From the severe and dark original Gothic style, the building was transformed by softening it with Renaissance lines permeated by Sicilian elements. The Church was completed in 1594. It was affected by the style and lines of the influences, contaminations, devices, and architectural details found in San Lorenzo's Church and Santo Spirito's Church in Florence. Inside Santa Maria Cathedral, there are several important sculptures and altars. During the bombing of the allied troops in 1943, a bomb fell on the central apse destroying the ancient organ, the gallery, and the apse's vault. The main altar was damaged, then restored and rededicated in 1945. Outside, the upper part of the apse was rebuilt. The bombings of Randazzo were particularly violent due to the presence of military targets. This circumstance led to the destruction and consequent loss of architectural and artistic complexes of considerable importance. The Cathedral host some important sculptures and painting, including the fresco on the ceiling.
The Three old Quarters and the three churches
In Randazzo, the Alcantara valley's biggest town until the XVI century, three languages were spoken. Greek in the San Nicola quarter, Latin in the Santa Maria quarter where the main Cathedral of Santa Maria is located. The Latin and Lombard community was based in the San Martino quarter, where there is the Church of San Martin. Since the city was formed by the union of three different ethnic groups, thanks to the Lombards around the XI century, it became a stronghold of the Norman kings fighting against the Arabs. Randazzo has almost entirely preserved its medieval aspect, having been spared from the volcano despite being the closest town to the central crater and at the foot of Mount Etna. Outside the San Nicola church, you can admire the statue representing the three ancient districts' union. It, personified by the Giant Piracmone. The sculpture incorporates the three districts' symbols: the Latins' eagle symbol, the lion banner of the Greeks and, the Lombards' snake.
The three arches street
At the edge of the square of San Nicolò, it is possible to walk in one of the most evocative streets of the town: the Via Degli Archi. This, a quarter of the city with the cobblestones lava streets, pointed arches and mullioned windows, takes first place among the most beautiful street of Randazzo's historic center. Nearby you will also find palaces such as "Palazzo Russo" and "Palazzo Clarentano," little churches, other pretty streets such as Via dei Lanza (near the Church of Santa Maria), the "Carcere" Castle (near the Church of San Martino), now an archaeological museum. Within this quarter are visible some of the gates of the ancient medieval surrounding walls.
Randazzo Market, Sicily
Randazzo’s Sunday market is a great opportunity to mix with the locals and taste some local delicacies. Every Sunday morning between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. a series of streets and a square come alive with vendors arriving from every towns of the Alcantara Valley, and cities as far as Catania. In the market you will find some of the best veggies and cheese at the lowest price. Do not be shy to ask to taste some olives, cheeses and salami. Sicilians always ask for a taste before buying.
Randazzo Religious Festivals
The processions of the Holy Week
During Holy Week, a big event is the processions that take place in the streets of Randazzo. The Good Friday, is the most important religiuod festival of Randazzo. Two statues, the one crucified Christ and the other one of the Holy Mary, are paraded and carried by devotees wearing a white tunic and a Hood. The procession leaves around 8 pm from the Church of S. Pietro and moves towards the town center. Faithfully makes offers and pray using the old dialect still spoken in Randazzo and throughout the Alcantara Valley. The two holy statues are brought back to the Church after midnight. Be ready to see thousands of devotees take part in this ancient and important procession to witness the roman catholic Church's importance in Sicilians' lives.
The procession of the "Vara."
In mid-August, in Randazzo takes place one of the most fascinating religious festivals; the procession of the so-called "Vara." The "Vara" is a twenty meters high triumphal chariot, made up of iron and wood. It represents the Assumption of Mary into heaven. All the characters are played by 30 children in the characteristic garments tied to tools that allow them to remain standing. This festival presents an unmissable chance to witness the exit of the Chariot dragged with long ropes along the entire historic center, accompanied by popular songs sung by children.
The infiorata, the flower festival.
In the first week of June, Randazzo hosts a fantastic flower festival.The street becomes an explosion of colors and fragrances, both of ornamental and medicinal plants. The three main quarters of Randazzo challenge each other on who displays the most beautiful decorated balconies. If you are on the east coast of Sicily in June, do not miss this colorful festival.
Things to do in randazzo, Sicily.
Mount Etna tours
Randazzo is situated at the northern foot of Mount Etna. The bond between this beautiful town and Etna, the highest active volcano in the European continent, is strong. The city of Randazzo is built upon old lava flows. His buildings are constructed using the volcano's basaltic rocks, and the town's borders fall within Etna park. In 1981 a seven-day eruption threatened Randazzo, but the lava stream coming from a fissure system at Mount Etna's foothills stopped before reaching the city. Just outside the center of Randazzo, Monte Spagnolo offers the opportunity to visit mount etna's lower slopes through Mountain bike tours and trekking excursions. A classical Tour is the Etna Alcantara that in single days includes a visit to the Volcano, and a tour of the Alcantara gorges. The 4x4 jeep Etna wine tour is another great excursions to visit Mount etna and taste some of the best wine of Sicily paired with some delicious food.
Alcantara Gorges tours
Randazzo marks the beginning of the Alcantara valley. This geological and environmental wonder stretches for 38 kilometers all the way to the seaside town of Giardini Naxos, where the Alcantara Valley and the river meet the blue mediterranean sea. Even though technically the Botanical and Geological Park enclosing the Gorge Alcantara is located in the small village of Motta Camastra, who visit Randazzo either for a day trip or for a longer time must see the river and the fantastic black Canyon. The Alcantara Gorges (Gole Alcantara in Italian) formed from ancient eruptions and lava flows from Mount Etna, creating the most unique shapes on the 50 meters high walls. The river and the gorges are located just 20 kilometers from Randazzo. They are easily reachable with a bus ride or a taxi. Once at the Alcantara Gorges, there is plenty of things to do. Cycling tours, quad adventure are available every day. To reach the hearth and most stunning part of the Canyon, we suggest taking part in an adrenaline and fun adventure of body rafting and River trekking. The price to enter the Alcantara River Park is €1,50 through the 250 steps of the communal stair; otherwise, a private lift service is available for €8. For further info about prices, access points, car parks, and what to do at the Alcantara gorge, check out our Alcantara Gorge 2021 ultimate guide.
The Nebrodi Mountain range
On the west side of Randazzo, we find the lower slopes of the wild Nebrodi Mountain range, Sicily's largest natural park, and a place really of the beaten paths. This regional park's border goes across three provinces of Sicily; Enna, Messina, and Catania. The peaks and valleys of this lush area of Sicily host the oldest forest of the island, some of the most picturesque lakes like "maulazzo" and "biviere" and a series of Villages that still preserve ancient traditions and inhabitants by friendly dwellers. The Argimusco plateau not far from the medieval town of Montalbano Elicona represents one of the most incredible naturalistic sites of Sicily. This plateau houses some mysterious Megaliths. The view over the volcanic archipelago of the Aeolian island, one of Sicily's Unesco world heritage, is impressive. While in Randazzo, a Nebrodi regional park visit is a must for anybody willing to discover a corner of Sicily away from mass tourism. Both mountain bike excursions and walking tour of the Nebrodi are availables.
The quality of the Sicilian wines has improved a lot in the last twenty years. The vineyards around Randazzo host some top wineries. The district of Mount Etna produces some of the finest red and white wines of Italy. Randazzo has a series of wineries where to enjoy some tasting and feast on some delicious food. Within the center of town, "La Bottega del Buon Gustaio" has reasonable prices. The bonus is that "Pippo," the friendly owner, serves big plates of the best cheese, salami, and ham of the Nebrodi and the Alcantara valleys. At "San Giorgio e il Drago" Pippo, Daniele, and their 83 years old Mother run an authentic "Locanda" in the historical center of Randazzo. This local family has made a mission to preserve old recipes of the typical cuisine of Randazzo. The ingredients used at "San Giorgio e il Drago" restaurant are grown locally. This restaurant has the most extensive wine cellar in the district of Mount Etna and the Valley of the Alcantara River. In their wine list, you'll find all the best labels of Mount Etna's wine district. For those who feel like exploring some lovely vineyards and enjoy a wine tasting in a real winery, we suggest the "Tenuta delle Terre Nere," "Terrazze dell'Etna," and "Donna fugata". Another place that deserves a visit is the Feudo Vagliasindi, one of the best restaurants around Randazzo and along the Alcantara Valley. Check our article on the best Mount etna wineries.
How to get to Randazzo
How to get to Randazzo from Taormina?
There is no motorway junction close to the town of Randazzo. The closest airport is located 50 km, away in the city of Catania. From Taormina or Giardini Naxos, follow the Motorway E 45 exit at the Junction of Fiumefreddo and proceed along the S.S. 120 first toward Piedimonte, then Linguaglossa and finally Randazzo. The distance is 47 km, and the driving time is around 1 hour. An alternative route for those who want to avoid the motorway and see more villages is the S.S. 185 that crosses the whole Alcantara Valley.
How to get to Randazzo from Catania
From Catania, use the motorway E45 towards Messina exit at the Junction of Fiumefreddo and follow the signs toward Piedimonte, then Linguaglossa, and to Randazzo. The distance is 60 kilometers, and the driving time is 90 minutes.
When to visit Randazzo?
Randazzo as the Alcantara valley and Mount Etna can be visited all throughout the year. Summer is not so hot, with temperatures hardly rising over thirty degrees Celcius. After sunset, a typical night breeze of the Alcantara Valley will refresh the air. The autumn displays the island's most fantastic foliage due to the proximity to Mount Etna's northern slopes and the Nebrodi regional park's lush forest. Winter from January to March can be "cold," but to see the highest volcano of Europe covered in snow and to ski along its slopes is phenomenal. Spring is an explosion of colors from the large lemons and orange groves in the Alcantara valley and the wildflowers.
RANDAZZO WEATHER BY MONTH // WEATHER AVERAGES
Avg. Temperature (°C) 6.3 6.7 8.1 10.5 15 19.3 22.5 22.7 19.6 15.1 11.3 8
Min. Temperature (°C) 3.8 3.8 4.9 7.1 11 15 18.1 18.4 15.8 11.9 8.4 5.5
Max. Temperature (°C) 8.9 9.6 11.3 14 19.1 23.7 26.9 27 23.4 18.3 14.2 10.5
Avg. Temperature (°F) 43.3 44.1 46.6 50.9 59.0 66.7 72.5 72.9 67.3 59.2 52.3 46.4
Min. Temperature (°F) 38.8 38.8 40.8 44.8 51.8 59.0 64.6 65.1 60.4 53.4 47.1 41.9
Max. Temperature (°F) 48.0 49.3 52.3 57.2 66.4 74.7 80.4 80.6 74.1 64.9 57.6 50.9
Precipitation / Rainfall (mm) 80 60 59 42 29 13 13 20 46 93 76 80