Etna, a mythical mountain
The Etna, “the mountain”«a muntagna» in the Sicilian dialect is the place where nature and myths inextricably come together for the people of Catania and its surrounding area. According to the Ancient Greek people, Eeolus, the God of winds had been confined in its caves while Efesto had chosen the volcano for his forges. Even in a more recent time there are many beliefs that connect these places full of mysticism to miracles. The votive chapels and altars remind of that, they are spread along the volcano’s slopes, mainly the “tre altarelli” built in the village of Nicolosi exactly on the spot where the lava stopped its running in 1.776 or the sanctuary of Moncalieri that was built exactly where the simulacrum of Madonna delle Grazie had been erected by the Virgin Mary according to tradition. It is 3.350 metres high and it is fifty kilometres long, Etna dominates the whole Sicily and its unique shape of a cone rises straight up out of the Continent, from Sicily to Carriddi or the Strait of Messina.
Linguaglossa and Nicolosi, the paradise of snow
On the highest active Volcano in Europe, 150 kilometres from the African coastline you can go skiing and look at the sea at the sae time in two areas that offer you cross-country rings and alpine skiing tracks, it is an unforgettable experience. You can reach the top from the Southern edge and you go through Nicolosi and pass by the cabin Sapienza or you can reach the top from the Northern edge passing by Linguaglossa to reach the ski-lifts of Piano Provenzana. In the Southern part you can ski between 1.910 and 2.700 metres of altitude along 20 kilometres of blue and red tracks and you can see a wonderful landscape from there, the gulf of Catania and the valley of Simeto. One of the main tracks is 4 kilometres long. In the Northern part of the mountain you can ski between 1.800 and 2.317 metres of altitude along six different tracks and you can try the Baby one that crosses an amazing forest of pine trees and beeches. From Sapienza cabin a number of different tracks will offer you the chance to go down to the valley of Bove, a huge basin on the Eastern side of the volcano whose walls that are a thousand metres high are crossed by deep canyons.
A terrace that looks out on the Mediterranean Sea
You can drive up to the Etna or you can catch a bus or you can take the cable way then an off-road vehicle ad you can finally walk or mountain bike or ride on the seal leather according to the season to enjoy the incomparable landscape of the island and the Mediterranean Sea and push your sight up to Malta on the brightest days. The colours and the vegetation change along the route: from the citrus groves of Zafferana Etnea, the village which is famous for its honey, to the woods of chestnut trees, beeches and oaks that cover that side of the volcano up to 2000 metres of altitude where you can find junipers, soapworts and violets. The top of the mountain sounds a moon landscape above 2.500 metres of altitude where the species of vegetation are rare since they can’t survive among the black rocks of lava. Each Season is great for a journey on the Etna, a Unesco heritage Site since 2013. You will discover the several tiny villages in the park of Etna, created in 1987 and you will be thrilled by the snowy top of Mongibello, the other name of this mountain that lives and breaths together with you.
Medieval villages, Sicilian carts and Sicilian puppets
If you visit the park of Etna you will have the chance to see the several tiny villages spread in the area, they are tiny jewels built with lava stones that keep unexpected treasures. Randazzo for instance is known as the village of hundred churches or “borgo delle cento chiese”, you will be charmed by its network of narrow streets sided by sacred buildings and the Svevo castle, the Museum Vagliasindi and the Museum of Puppets. In Castiglione, on the other hand, you can see the Alcantara Gorges where the river runs and creates particular shaped rocks. The “cuba bizantina” deserves to be seen as well, it is a rural Church that dates back to the VIIth century, the church of Santa Domenica too that was acknowledged as an Italian wonder “meraviglia italiana” in 2011. If you want to go deep into the typical popular traditions you can’t miss a visit to Bronte where you can visit the Gulotti Museum of Sicilian Carts with more than 300 items ranging from the carts to the horses vestments and decorations of “mascillari”, the side edges of the carts or the “gambetti”, the spokes of wheels.
The land of pistacho nuts, strawberries and wine
Food is one of the many wonders from the Etna region. Thanks to the fertility of its soil and its mild climate the pistachio nuts from Bronte are considered green gold with a protected designation that has made the name of the village famous in the world. The scented strawberries from Maletto has been a slow food brand since 2007 . The tabacchiera peaches, a slow food brand since 2001 grow up in the soil that was once given by the King Ferdinand of Naples to the admiral Horatio Nelson whose castle is located near Bronte. The extra-olive oil of Monte Etna Dop (designation of protected origin)is another remarkable product. There is also the wine route that is crossed by the old Circumetnea railway. The six different types of wine with their controlled designations of origin (DOP) “Etna” – are the white wine, the white superior, the red, the red reserve, the rosato wine and the sparkling one. They must all be made from grapes cultivated within specific borders that include Nicolosi, Trecastagni, Zafferana, Linguaglossa, Castiglione and Randazzo.
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