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Cruise ships come to Sicily all the time, today. They usually arrive at Catania, Palermo and Messina ports and let tourists enjoy the beauties of these historical cities. If you do not have enough time, you shall choose short itineraries so to admire – at least – the most important places.

Mount Etna, of course, is a symbol of Sicily. You will already admire it from the sea, as you get to Catania. But you cannot always visit it, because of the distance and too many other things to see, nearby.

But if you go with a good tour operator, and if you can decide what to see and not to see, the great volcano will be part of a quick itinerary for cruisers. Excluding Palermo, too far away, here is two ideas for itineraries to go.

Etna itinerary, for cruises arriving at Catania

If your cruise ship arrives at Catania’s port you have a good advantage for tours including Mount Etna. Some tours will come and get you at the port, and take you back there at the end. In case your ship stays for at least two days you shall include more interesting places in your excursion. If you only have a few hours for the tour, just choose Etna without any doubt.

In the case of a longer itinerary, the guide will pick you up in an off-road vehicle at the port of Catania. He or she will take you directly to the southern flank of Etna, in the Rifugio Sapienza area, passing through Nicolosi. A panoramic breakfast right at the refuge and then off, exploring! You can visit the nearby Silvestri Craters, three nineteenth-century extinguished vents that still today give the feeling of being on the edge of “hell”. You can also visit some lava caves. Going down towards the east flank, you will see some of the most recent lava flows. One of them even touched the inhabited area of ??Zafferana Etnea in 1992! It will be possible to walk right on the flow, now cold, which has become a black tongue of rock.

cruise ship 02
photo by G Musumeci

At Zafferana you can stop for lunch, before continuing towards the sea. It will be nice to pass by Acireale, a baroque town gathered around a seventeenth-century square. Then the trip will continue to Aci Castello . Finally, have an ice cream at Aci Trezza, perhaps right in front of the panorama of the Faraglioni di Ulisse islets! You have not visited Catania, yet. No problem at all. If the cruise stops one more day, you will dedicate the next twenty-four hours to the beautiful Etnean city.  But if the itinerary is limited to a few hours, choose to visit the great volcano directly. You can also go, with your guide, almost to the foot of the summit craters (but never beyond 2700 meters) to experience thrilling emotions.

Etna itinerary, for cruises arriving at Messina

If your itinerary starts from the port of Messina it will be necessary for the cruise to stop more than a day, because Etna is a bit further away. But if you have this opportunity, include it in an itinerary that, starting from the famous city of the Strait, will lead you to see wonderful places. A must, of course, is Taormina. A breakfast based on granita, in front of the panoramic balcony overlooking the Bay of Naxos and Mount Etna, shall not to be missed!

After we will continue towards Motta Camastra and the famous River Alcantara Gorges. The gorges can be visited either on foot or with the lift that immediately leads to the bottom. Given the tight deadlines the second solution is the most recommended. After visiting the gorges, continue to the delightful medieval village of Castiglione di Sicilia, where you can stop for an excellent lunch based on local specialties. In the early afternoon you will head to Etna, driving up to the north side full of woods and ancient lava flows. You can wait for the sunset at the Sartorius Craters before returning to Messina. Along the way,  stop for dinner at Giardini Naxos to taste excellent fish.

Alternatively, you can leave immediately from the port towards Etna, driving the road to  Giarre-Sant’Alfio-Milo. You may admire the top of the volcano from the square of the Citelli Refuge. Continue towards Piano Provenzana, then, to look at the volcano from an unusual perspective. From there you can go down to Linguaglossa. Taste the excellent local wine and the best sausage of Etna! On the way back to Messina, enjoy a stop for a walk and an ice cream in Taormina.

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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