Mt. Etna, the largest of Italy’s three active volcanoes, commands the view to the east of Enna, an ancient town built atop a hill in the middle of Sicily. A few miles farther and 2,000 feet higher on the road climbing out of the Dittano Valley, the smoking giant looms even larger as seen from the narrow ridge where the Greco-Roman village of Centuripe was established to defend a crucial trade route. The slopes of the ridge are crowded with pastel-colored houses and still, to this day, threading your way through Centuripe isn’t an easy proposition. The dark, narrow alleys sometimes end abruptly at stairways, and our own excursion through town is more strenuous than desired. But when finally emerging into sunlight, we’re rewarded immediately with an unobstructed view and stop to take in all of Etna’s 10,990 feet, rising from sea level in the fertile Simeto Valley.
Drawn Toward Etna
The epic mountain is so alluring we find it hard to look away. But we should. The road down from Centuripe is in such a state that every millimeter of suspension travel the Multistradas allow is needed. In other words, the holes and waves in the asphalt are much more multi than strada. The ground has a bad habit of moving here. Road conditions improve on the other side of the valley, where, in order to stay the night as close as possible to Etna, Michiel and I have booked accommodations halfway up the mountain.
All the curvy roads have taken their toll by the time dusk sets in, but still we have to keep on climbing. The lights far down in the valley, in Catania, are already on. And quite quickly, without any other traffic on this road squeezed between low walls of lava stone, I’m feeling lost and lonely in the darkness. It’s a relief to at last turn in on the hotel’s drive, a 400-foot, cobblestone parkway between chestnut trees that delivers us to the courtyard. Natural stone walls and an olive tree we’re told is several hundred years old provide the perfect ambience for a bottle of warming, locally produced red wine. Sicily is taking care of us most admirably right now.