La Playa beach
La Playa is a very long and wide golden sandy beach, extending for 18 km from Agnone Bagni, a hamlet of Augusta in the province of Syracuse, to the southern outskirts of Catania, along the eastern coast of Sicily. Its waters are shallow and slope gently offshore. The high number of beach clubs, campsites, water parks, resorts, hotels and summer camps for children has made La Playa the most popular beach in the province of Catania, both during the day and at night, when it becomes the favourite destination of summer nightlife. Moreover, the high concentration of services makes this beach the ideal place for those who want to enjoy a holiday of relax and comfort, especially for families with children. Along the coast, there are many bars and restaurants, as well as several free and paying parking areas. Since it is one of the most popular seaside resorts among locals and has a few free beach areas, the coastline could be particularly crowded during high season. La Playa is also home to important concerts throughout the year and big music events on the occasion of the May Day, such as One Day Music and Revolution Day.
Nature Reserve of the River Simeto
Established in 1984 to limit human intervention in the area and restore the normal environmental balance, the Nature Reserve of the River Simeto extends into the Piana di Catania, south of the beach La Playa, between the provinces of Syracuse and Catania. Due to its lacustrine nature, the mouth of the river is the ideal destination for several species of migratory and resident birds, including marsh hawks, mallards, woodcocks, black terns and herons, which live immersed in the pristine flora of the reserve. There are also a lot of plants growing in this oasis, such as rushes, tamarisks and willows, as well as mastic, lily of the beaches and cornflowers along the banks. The course of the river has been profoundly modified by the action of man after World War II. Many lakes, which favored the presence of the malaria-bearing mosquito, were reclaimed and the course of the river was partly diverted and dammed. It was also difficult to limit the phenomenon of illegal building. These interventions caused significant ecological damage, causing the loss of numerous plant and animal species. Despite all this, this fragile reserve offers several interesting naturalistic areas: a long sandy beach, a dune stretch, a back-dune stretch and a marshy area. In the back-dune area you can see the so-called “salatelle”, seasonal ponds of brackish water that evaporate in summer leaving room for salt puddles. To the south of the mouth, there is Lake Gornalunga, an extensive brackish water mirror that houses several species of waterfowl, such as the plum, the bittern, the kestrel, the Kentish plover and the river nightingale. The reserve is also populated by several mammals, such as wild rabbits, hares and foxes.