Sicilians speak of Etna in the feminine, and as a good volcano. Very different from Campania, on the mainland, where Vesuvio was always masculine and not good at all.
I’ve also heard è come Coca Cola – she is like Coca Cola. Always bubbling (but not about to blow up).
A’ Muntagna has always dominated the lives of those who live in her shadow. Lava flows and dust clouds bring destruction but they also enrich the soil, making the lower slopes and the surrounding plains some of the most fertile regions in Sicily, spawning vast expanses of vines and citrus plantation. The smell of the lemon and orange groves is a constant background in Sicily and it’s everywhere!
The easiest way for me to get to Etna was via Nicolosi.
Nicolosi is, I estimate, about 20 chilometri from Etna. The town is up high and I found it cold enough for a jacket, scarf and my faithful beanie -in other words, a pleasant temperature and similar to a mild Winter’s day in Melbourne. Nicolosi also displays one of my favourite civil aspects of Sicilia, the seats. I love the seats!
At Nicolosi I discovered Liquore Fuoco dell’Etna di Fichera. And fiery it was too! If anyone knows where can I get some more of this, please let me know.
An even safer spot to take a photo of Etna is up on a ridge of rock miles away. I felt very much at ease watching Etna from the piazza in Taormina.
However, I gamely took the funivia which goes almost to the top. I get anxious bouncing around in cable cars. I blame the James Bond movie.
Other passengers then took the long walk up to the crater but I preferred to stay where I was. A little too roccambolesco for me and a four hour walk didn’t really appeal. Perhaps when I finally have my hip replacement, I’ll return and march right up to the crater.
Around and about the funivia station, you can see many ruins left from Etna’s rampages of lava.
Lava is an excellent building material too, most of Catania is made with lava, but here’s a solid wall to hopefully hold back a fiery flow or possibly to stop any cooled rocks tumbling down.
The Forge of Vulcan
Underneath Etna, deep in the bowels of the earth, is the forge of Vulcan. Unlike the other gods of ancient Greece, Vulcan wasn’t divinely handsome and beauteous of limb. To put it plainly, he was downright ugly.
Known as Hephaestus to the Greeks, he was hurled down at birth from lofty Mt Olympus by his father, the mighty Zeus. The infant landed on the Island of Lemnos where he grew to be a master craftsman and the God of Smiths but he was still treated with contempt and, finally, he moved to Sicily where he was welcomed. He’s still under Etna to this day.
Occasionally he overheats the fire at his forge …