Higher Than the Sky

The drive between Riposto and Mt Etna is roughly 43 kilometers (~27 miles) – not really as big as or as tall as the earth, but don’t tell Emmett (video above).  This distance is ‘as the crow flies’ only if the crow has been dipping into the local wine.  The road doubles back on itself in z’s going up the mountain.  For most of the drive, once you are on park land, you are driving  “higher than the sky” above the cloud line.   The temperature, in early April, goes from a balmy 70 F at sea level to in the 20s and snowy at the top of the mountain.

The view near the crater of skies and snow, on Mt Etna.
The view near the crater of skies and snow, on Mt Etna.

The highest volcano in Europe, Mt Etna remains one of the largest and most active in the world.  Its name is originated from Phoenician for furnace, attuna. This became Aetna in Latin.  A Muntanga has also been called ‘Mongibello’, a combination of Italian for mountain, monte and Arabic for mountain, jebel.  The mountain looms over Sicily, especially its Eastern shore and has controlled the fate of the land since before the common era.

Mt Etna from Riposto, 27 miles away, at dusk.
Mt Etna as viewed from Riposto, 27 miles away, at dusk.

As much as it has wreaked havoc, such as the repeated destruction of Catania, Etna has blessed Eastern and Southern Sicily with very fertile lands. Volcanic ash is rich in nutrients; the soil at Etna’s foot is extremely fertile. The parkland around the volcano is devoted to preserving 59k hectares of unique geology, flora and flauna. Traditionally methods of bee-keeping, forestry and wine making (opa!) are all preserved in the villages surrounding the mountain.  The higher up the mountain, the more rugged and rocky the terrain.  Or at least under all the snow, that’s what is there.

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Finally, the view of the coast from Etna, with the shadow of Etna.


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