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Catania Guide Italy

Mount Etna and nearby area


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A special day
Caltagirone: the pottery city
Mount Etna and nearby area

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Mount etna and nearby area

Etna is the most imposing volcano in Europe: 3330 meters high, 210 km of perimeter with an overall surface area of 1600 square kilometers. A live giant that sometimes explodes unexpectedly and violently, creating terror for those nearby.
The most disastrous eruption dates back to 1669, when the lava destroyed villages and harvests, people and animals, and traveled as far as Catania.
In 1900, Etna woke up several times, threatening and sometimes destroying the area.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Milo, Sant’Alfio and Randazzo were saved at the last minute. Finally, during the eruption in 1983, the lava was diverted into an artificial canal. Etna never sleeps and it is continuously active: lava comes out of its craters regularly, all along the sides of the volcano. The last eruption was at the end of 2002, when a violent eruption threatened the Rifugio Sapienza, a refuge at the foot of the volcano.
Climbing up Etna is a unique, exciting experience. You don’t need to be an athlete to explore the Sicilian giant: there are several types of excursions, from trekking to tourist trips on the Circumetnea train, the food and drink itinerary and mountain bike trips over the rough paths.
The visit to the top craters is the best trip of all. Once you get to the top, you can see a large part of Sicily from the Aeolian Islands to the Gulf of Augusta. The tour on the old Circumetnea train that takes you to the villages around the foot of the volcano is also extremely worthwhile. One of these villages is Randazzo, that has beautiful medieval architecture and Linguaglossa, with its characteristic buildings in lava and sand stone. If you go to Linguaglossa, we recommend you visit the Ethnographic Museum of the Etna people and the wonderful Etna Park, that is a splendid green oasis that stretches out over 58,000 hectares. The luxuriant vegetation that grows at the foot of Etna changes depending on the altitude, Mediterranean scrub, chestnut woods, oak trees, pine trees, beech trees and birch trees, and higher up there are green meadows that lead to the permanently snow-capped peak of the volcano.
A love of nature is not the only reason for a trip to Etna: this area is so fertile and rich that many types of Sicilian produce are grown here, that can be tried out in the several restaurants and inns that you find nearby. The whole area of Etna is famous for its wine production, especially near Randazzo and Castiglione di Sicilia: Etna DOC is a strong wine, that is just right for tasty food such as “zuzzu”, a king of gelatinous sausage made from the cartilage of pork and beef meat, that is usually served cut into cubes. Another typical dish is “maccaruni”, homemade pasta with various types of sauce. A good second course may be lamb or kid meat.
Finally, the town of Bronte is famous for its pistachio production, nuts that are especially fine and popular in Italy and abroad. Around 1800, the growing of these nuts was the area’s most important activity.
Pistachio harvesting is still a long, tiring job: the plants only produce their fruit once every two years and it is not possible to gather the fruit mechanically. It must be done by hand. There are many characteristic recipes prepared in Bronte and nearby that use the pistachio nuts as an ingredient: pasta dishes made with pistachio sauces and many types of cakes that use the nuts, either as a paste or crushed.

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