Mount Etna encompasses more than 19,000 uninhabited hectares and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. So whilst the idea of witnessing an eruption may not be too farfetched, it does require some luck and travel flexibility. In the meantime, however, there are still plenty of excuses to find yourself following the path down to the sunny south of Italy, to the land of Mount Etna. From the most flavour-packed produce and foods, to otherworldly sights and of course, some of the best citrus fruits in the world, here are some ideas that will get you dreaming of your next holiday.
TO SEE AND DO IN MOUNT ETNA
The Etna National Park was established in 1987 and covers some 580 square kilometres and 20 towns surrounding the mountain.
- Hikers rejoice, there are many organized tours where views include volcanic craters to fields of lava to swatches of woods.
- Skiing is a popular activity in the winter and there are many trails and paths to choose from for all levels.
- Take the easy route and hop on a cable car, the Funivia dell’Etna from the town of Rifugio Sapienza will take you up to a height of 2,500 metres above sea level.
- Stay at an agriturismo – converted farmhouses where you can immerse yourself in the slow lifestyle.
- Food events are aplenty in Mount Etna, as locals celebrate the large variety of local products with food festivals dedicated to blood oranges, honey, pistachios, mushrooms, chestnuts, grapes and wine – just to name a few!
MUST TRY FOOD AT MOUNT ETNA
The southern positioning in the Mediterranean, the height of Etna and its snow-water, and of course the mineral-rich volcanic soil all make for the unique conditions that shape the agriculture in this area.
- It goes without saying that a large variety of citrus fruit is found here. Try lemons, blood oranges, grapefruit and mandarins, and don’t miss out on the local granita and dishes made with citrus juices and candied peels.
- The flourishing local flora means also an abundance of honey: the small town of Zafferana Etnea produces up to 35% of Italy’s honey, from the blossoms of oranges, chestnuts and lemons.
- Pistachios: the famous pistachio from Bronte will have you wondering why you had been eating any other pistachio.
- Locally grown prickly-pear cactus, peaches, cherries, Etna apples (small and sweet), plums, pears, chestnuts and pine nuts also play a large part of the agriculture of the area.
HOW TO GET THERE
Many flights will take you to Catania, Sicily’s largest city. From there, the Circumetnea railroad leaves from the metro station of Borgo, which you can go for a 3-hour trip around the mountain through the various towns. Shuttles run from the city up the mountainside to the Rifugio Sapienza where the cable car is located.