Acireale lies 302 m above sea level along the coast. It is a small town with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. The nearest larger town is Catania, which is 6 km away. Acireale was founded 3,000 years ago on the banks of the small tributaries of the river Aci. In 1000 BC it became a Phoenician trading place of some importance and 300 years later it was colonized by the Greeks and given the name Xiphonia (sword), possibly because of the shape of the headland. Later on the Romans named the town Aci, after Akis, a word meaning the same as Xiphonia. The history of the town is full of victories and devastations – caused not only by human hand, but also by the volcano Etna. Today Acireale has a beautiful location on a natural terrace by the sea with its appearance shaped by the earthquake of 1693. In addition to the Byzantine and Arabian remains that survived the earthquake, there are a number of Baroque buildings. The most important monument is the cathedral built around 1600. It has a gothic facade designed by Giovan Battista Basile. Furthermore, the town is known for its colourful carnival, which is reputed to be the most spectacular in the whole of Sicily.