Magnetic Mount Etna offers much more than wine. The volcano is among the Mediterranean’s biggest attractions with winter and summer sports and loads of touring opportunities. You can ski on the upper slopes of the cone in winter months, and there is sledding and ice trekking as well. The runs don’t compare to the black diamond challenges in the north, but the experience of speeding down a snowy piste past black lava and a shimmering blue sea, in a near vertical drop, thousands of feet below is simply unforgettable.
In warm months, there is hiking, camping, cycling and some of Europe’s best beaches can be found less than 30 km (20 miles) at the base of the volcano. The Riviera dei Ciclopi is dotted with cove beaches and tiny harbors with colorfully painted fishing boats. The collection of lava rock formations you see off the coast are said to be the same boulders that the Cyclops hurled at Odysseus after the Greek hero blinded the monster. Taormina, the queen of Sicilian summertime destinations, is only a short drive away and it offers luxury accommodation.
The lovely Circumetnea (route SS 284) loops around the volcano and can be completed easily in under a day in a rented car. Start your Etna adventure at the Fiumefreddo exit off the E45 toll-road and head along SS 120 to Linguaglossa. Here, you can take the via Mareneve up a steeply ascending stretch of twists and turns in the road to the summit of the volcano. The drive, through the Etna Regional Park, leads you to the Etna Nord skiing area where there are five lifts and half a dozen runs (open December to April). In summer month, you can walk up a steep trail to the volcano’s main crater.
Il Nido dell’Etna is a friendly, modern hotel in Linguaglossa with an excellent restaurant. Another dining venue is Bocca Aperta and one of the highlights here is the vast appetizer spread. Some of the best vineyard views can be seen at Passopisciaro. Further down the road at Randazzo you can savor the memorable pistachio gelato at Pasticceria Santo Musumeci with tables on the main square in town.
One of the best restaurants on the volcano is Trattoria San Giorgio e il Drago in Randazzo (at piazza San Giorgio 28) with pansotti pasta stuffed with pistachio pesto. These delicious pistachio nuts come from the town of Bronte where you can see the shrubby bushes pushing through the volcanic rock. Murgo makes the only sparkling wine on Etna and runs a charming bed & breakfast hotel.
Read more on the wines of Mount Etna.