In addition to the wonderful citrus fruits the area around Mount Etna is also home to many other fabulous foods that are directly cultivated on the slopes of the volcano.
Known to the locals as ‘Muntagna’ the 3,350-metre-high Etna volcano dominates the eastern part of Sicily. For those who live in its shadow, Mount Etna has long been a source of both danger but also of great wealth.
The volcanic mineral rich soil, combined with the mild Mediterranean climate provides a uniquely rich territory that has profoundly shaped the agriculture and culture in the volcano’s surrounding communities.
In addition to the wonderful citrus fruits this area is home to many other fabulous foods that are directly cultivated on the slopes of the volcano.
If you ask any Italian where the best pistachios in country come from they will respond “Bronte” without hesitation. This small village, located at an altitude of 700m on the western slope of the volcano, has been home to pistachio cultivation since the Arab period.
Known as the “green gold” of Sicily pistachios are highly prized for their rich distinctive flavour. They are used in many local dishes including gelato, desserts, pesto sauces, with fish and even crushed up into a paste and spread on the top of pizza.
The villagers of Bronte love this nut pistachio so much that they celebrate it with a festival (a ‘sagra’ in Italian) every year in late September/early October. It’s a great time to visit the area, as you can enjoy the festival atmosphere and try authentic pistachio based recipes prepared by local, national and international chefs.
Located on the southeastern slopes of Mount Etna, at an altitude of 600 metres, Zafferana Etnea is known as the “town of honey”.
Most of the honey produced in Zafferana is made from orange blossom nectar, but you can also find honey made from eucalyptus and wild flowers. Honey is the main source of income in this small village and the beekeepers in Zafferana (called "lapari" in local dialect) have transformed this craft into a true art form.
The village is also home to the Zafferana Museum of beekeeping, where you can taste many varieties of honey and buy delicious artisanal products.
Just a few miles to the east of Mount Etna near Catania is the beautiful and historic coastal city of Acireale. Every June it plays host to the Nivarata Acireale Granita Festival which brings together thousands of visitors from around the island and beyond to celebrate this most Sicilian of treats.
The local name for granita is “nivarata” a term taken from “nivaroli”, the name for the men who since the Middle Ages climbed Mount Etna to collect the winter snow (“neve” in Italian). This snow was transported down the mountain and insulated ready for hotter months when it was mixed with fruit juices or coffee to make a refreshing semi-frozen treat.