Mongibello, as the Etna is also known, is the highest summit in Sicily. Cloaked in snow during winter, it is one of Europe’s best known active volcanoes. Its height, continuously modified by eruptions, is around 3,350m. With its dramatic volcanic displays, Etna is one of the island’s most interesting sites and the area also has a fascinating, artistic, cultural and culinary heritage, which includes Etna wine, pistachio nuts, honey, fragrant granite and warm brioche. Etna can be explored from the southern or northern slopes of the volcano, the two routes offer contrasting views and landscapes: the route up the southern side to Rifugio Sapienza runs to an unnerving and alien landscape dominated by black lava and relieved occasionally by white patch of snow or pink or yellow bursts of flowers in spring, while the northern side via Piano Provenzana wends its way through a lush larch forest. Arriving from Zafferana Etnea, just before Rifugio Sapienza, a sign points to the Crateri Silvestri, craters formed in 1892 and reached by a short walk through a lunar landscape.
There are pretty towns and villages surrounding the mountain, for example Linguaglossa, in the northern flank, whose name derives from the ancient term for “a big tongue of lava”. Perhaps this is a reference to its vulnerable “red-hot” position on the slopes of Etna, down which incandescent lava has flowed on several occasion. Sant’Alfio, a tiny village with a monumental church whit an unusual lava façade incorporating a campanile. Sant’Alfio’s main attraction, however, is a famous chestnut tree, over 2000 years old, known as the Castagno dei 100 Cavalli. Milo , one of the most lively towns perched on Etna with panoramic view of the coast, it has been destroyed by lava flows on three occasions (1950, 1971, 1979). Bronte, famous for its pistachios; Randazzo, very close to the volcano, called the “black town” due to its lava paving, arches and principal monuments in the attractive historical centre.