An excursion to celebrate the birthday on Etna.

A tale given as gift from a soul in love with Sicily and our Mom Etna.

Heart-felt thanks from Etna Est staff to Francesca Patuzzi for this amazing story of an unforgettable excursion.

Birthday celebration on Etna (5years ago, but emotions are the same even todady…)

For my 49th birthday (almost end of Marh, the 30th) I didn’t want a common party because my last year hadn’t been “common”: I wanted to blow on the candles on the top of the Volcano. So I took an airplane from Malpensa and I flew to Catania: in, candles, blowing and out! All of this, in 36 hours, from Saturday evening to the dawn of Monday, including climbing to the closest possible point next to the summit crater at 3.340mt above sea level. The night before I climbed with my candles towards the lava flow, a lot of snow fell down like glaze on the “cake”.


Ready, set, go… Let’s climb! As the crow flies, in the 3 kilometers of climb from the sea to the top, I met:
0mt of altitude: the sea and lava rocks of Acitrezza. The legend says that Polifemo threw them towards Ulysses who was escaping after putting a finger in his (lonely) eye. But I say that Etna was playing throwing rocks in the sea to see how many times they bounced on the surface! They’ve been stuck for thousand years. Around there are typical “graniterie” touching the places so beloved by Sciascia.

410mt: Viagrande (my accommodation was there, while Etna was snoring and coughing), on the route towards “A’Muntagna”, Town of the Etna area, with roads paved with lava rock, historical alleys leading up towards the woods of Trecastagni and the first naked slopes of the Volcano, covered only from rock spikes of ancient lava flows (not so ancient anyway…)

700mt: Nicolosi, that is “the door of Etna”. Here we find the southernmost ski resort in Italy, very organized. In 1669 the town was totally destroyed from a quite lively and even in 1983 the situation was complicated. Its luck is being on the west side of the Bove Valley where (almost) the lava flows take origin and vent. Sometimes Etna plays a trick and opens a small side joint that generates boiling rivers: and that’s it. In that case, Nicolosi, Trecastagni, Viagrande start praying the Saint Agatha to stop everything by raising Her veil like in Nicolosi in 1886 (and also many times before).

Climbing for a while (for a long while) among black hills keeping houses, small farms, orchards, brooms we reached the Rifugio Sapienza, which is at 1915mt of height. It should know about it, considering the name, that its always present main risk is to be covered. Once by lava (1983: destroyed) and once by snow (the 22nd of February of this year, 2012, 25 tourists remained blocked there, under 2meters of a new snowfall, added to the previous one). But it stays there. It is always built again and guards. You can go to the Rifugio Sapienza by car. Then you can take the cable car to reach 2500mt. Then you can also take the big 4x4wd buses going through very high snow walls, to reach the height of 2900mt, near the craters of the eruption of 2002-2003, from this point it seems possible to touch the “serious” ones, that are 400mt up.

The “walls” of the route seem to me like Viennetta cakes, taste real milk ice cream and licorice. They are high 2/5 mt and the layers black and white alternating one upon the other one make everything looks like an abacus.  They indicate you how many snowfalls and “lapillifalls” were in succession in the last season.

2900mt. We got off from the 4x4wd bus and we had in front of our eyes what was defined from my party friends “The Orgasm of every Geologist”, that is… the landscape on the  solfatare and the puffs of the central crater that, during its rumble, reminds everybody who is the real boss and that at any moment, if it wants, it can show you its own orgasm!

The rest is told by the images: white, black, light blue, yellow, red… the nature knows how to put together the colors with such perfection, it knows better that any textbook or color table I have studied for years of graphics, not able to imitate reality.

Or it is told by the scents, the fragrance of sulphur mixed with the one of dried salt that as for miracle rises of 3000mt that separate the lava waves from the sea ones.

… or also by the dull sound, the constant vibration of Sicily navel, the conical cap that seems to let it float.

You lay on the ground, on the hot lapilli and sometimes you feel a small blow shaking you softly…

That small blow, the vibration reminded at intervals of few minutes, that I celebrated my 49th birthday on the “roof” of one of the most fascinating lands existing on Earth and I was celebrating there like I had so much dreamt.

I drew with some small volcanic bombs the magical number, I blew upon them as if they were candles and I thought that here, God exists.

Thank you.


Do you want to celebrate your birthday this way with Etna Est?

This is the perfect excursion!

Etna Quota 3000mt english