Sicily in a Week: Mount Etna

Very sorry to leave our little enclave amongst the fragrant Umbrella pines and above the sea, but now we had a journey back across Sicily to Etna where my plan was to climb as high as we could on the volcano, weather dependent.Well, as Burns’ said, the best laid plans…..

A nice view along the busy coast around Palermo before we headed inland again.

Enna drops off the plan….

It was an easy if long 3.5hr drive across central Sicily and our first stop was Enna, situated at over 900m or 3,000 feet , sitting on an outcrop with wonderful views over to Etna. It looked a really interesting town but we were foiled immediately when horrendous road works and a land slippage created humungous tailbacks. We gave up, did an about turn and headed for the volcano instead.

We were almost back at Cefalu on the east coast when the Mount Etna road appeared, winding its way up to the ski centre, on a good road which climbed and climbed until lava replaced the green fields and houses. Above us, the mountain – all 3,350m or nearly 11,000 feet of it –  was swathed in cloud.

Etna from Enna

Rifugio Sapienza

A bit of a shock arriving at Rifugio Sapienza where we were due to stay the night.It was quite a tacky,  overdeveloped resort amidst the lava landscape, full of cars, caravans and fast food outlets.I had imagined a quiet mountain refuge somehow, very small scale.We were starving and went into the Rifugio’s café bar for some pizza and panini – not good and very pricey. The cloud was well down now and it seemed pointless spending 30 Euros each to go up the cable car in the hope of walking further to see more of this great mountainscape. So we settled for a walk round some of the smaller craters – the Silvestri craters which were very attractive,  not busy and gave some great views when the mist cleared, towards the coast.Cloud came and went but the summit slopes never cleared.

Walk over, we debated and decided we’d cut our losses and make for the coast, despite not having anywhere to stay.It felt a bit depressing to just hang around here in the hope of the weather improving sometime.

Cutting our losses 

It wasn’t too long a drive to Taormina which looked very upmarket and promising.I had been googling accommodation on and Airbnb but there wasn’t a lot that seemed good value and in a good location – some of the prices were horrendous! We cruised through Giardini Naxos but neither of us fancied it much.It was quite modern and unappealing though one hotel at the very end on a headland looked nice.But by the time we got there, the vacancy they had advertised on their website had been taken! Start again…..


Desperate,  we drove up to Castelmola where there seemed to be a vacancy at a small place called Borgo Medievale. It was a tortous drive up but wow, those views! The countryside here seemed much more attractive then any we had seen so far too. Finding the place was a nightmare as was parking. Darkness was falling but not before we got some really sensational views towards Etna and the coast turning rose and lilac as the sun went down. It was worth being up here already. And – Etna was now clear!

Had a LONG wait for the owner to turn up and let us into the room; but it was very nice inside. No real outlook as such but quiet and the village looked pretty, high above the coast. Got supplies in a nearby shop – that sunset over Etna having left me with future plans to return and get ourselves more organised for doing one of the guided treks up to the summit slopes – whatever the weather. I really felt we’d given up too quickly.It’s true, you always regret what you DON”T do…

Next day: beautiful Castelmola, even more beautiful Savoca and gorgeous Taormina; I’m in love! Sicily in a Week: Savoca and Taormina

Previous Days:SICILY IN A WEEK: Syracuse and Ortygia  Sicily in a Week: Noto, Modica and Marzamemi SICILY IN A WEEK: Ragusa, the world’s finest Roman mosaics and the Madonie Mountains Sicily in a Week: It’s Highest Village and Cefalu Sicily in a Week: Amazing Palermo


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