The affectionately named Mamma Etna is seen by locals as both a blessing and a curse, its a symbol of fertility despite having destroyed cities several times in written history. Regardless, it has historically offered Catania, its closest sitting city, the opportunity to rebuild itself in its own opulent Sicilian baroque style. The fertile landscape created by this active volcano has produced an abundance of agriculture, a beautiful national park just outside of the city, some of the best wines in the world and a mouth-watering cuisine palate with fantastic flavour.
On the eastern coast of Sicily - a short journey from the Strait of Messina - lies Mt. Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe and UNESCO World Heritage.
Through the centuries, its eruptions have shaped the volcano’s slopes, designing unique landscapes of lava and ice. The area is now an enormous nature reserve, full of walkable trails.
Climbing to the top, we can roam its changing topographies: from a fruitful countryside of sweet citrus groves to thick forests to bare terrain where the perfume of the broom shrub reigns and the lunar atmosphere closer to the crater that sits atop Etna. If you are lucky enough to see an eruption at night, the sight of lavic rivers flowing slowly down the mountainside is truly wondrous.
The Bove Valley is equally-alluring; a huge natural amphitheatre whose walls are carved into deep canyons, its heights can reach up to 3,281 ft. Then, the ice cave Grotta del Gelo is an imposing volcanic cavity where the only perpetual glacier has ever formed at this latitude. Another spot not to miss is the Gole dell'Alcantara, ravines created by centuries of erosion by the cold waters of the Alcantara River.
Etna is the icon of Sicily, and a fundamental stop for anyone vacationing here any time of year - if vacationing here during winter, when snow decorates the scenery, it becomes an ideal skiing destination.