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When they take you to explore the beauties of Mount Etna  you will see many of them. But maybe you won’t notice if your guide doesn’t point them out to you. They are the “dagale”, islands of green surrounded by black lava. Small oases that seem to have been spared from the fury of the volcano, and sometimes it is so. Corners of paradise spared by fire, by a miracle. A miracle from God, or as the Arabs – who baptized them first – said: daha Allah, a miracle from Allah.

How dagale are formed

When a volcano as big as Etna erupts, you never know how the event will proceed. Everything changes and transforms as the energy of fire finds its way. If the eruption is at the top, above 2700 metres, the vegetation that will be hit by the lava is minimal or completely absent. If the lava goes down, or if it comes out of lateral vents, it may involve meadows, fields or woods.

When a part of the vegetation is “spared” by the lava, it becomes an oasis of lush greenery in the middle of a “black desert”. Dagale. Dagale are formed when, for example, the lava divides into several branches, surrounding pieces of land that will therefore remain intact. Sometimes, however, dagale are born spontaneously in the center of a cold lava branch. In fact, the lava rock favours the rapid growth of some plants. So it may happen that in a particular basin, in the center of the cold stream, a patch of vegetation forms which then develops to become a grove. The impression it gives, however, is of a small oasis in the middle of nowhere.

dagale mt etna 2
places of peace and rest among lava rocks

The most beautiful dagale

You can admire the most beautiful dagale easily on the north and west slopes of Etna, where the lateral eruptions have had the opportunity to expand better. But there are also fascinating examples of dagale on other flanks.

Inside Valle del Bove there is Dagala del Picchio, in the center of which there is also a small refuge. Piano Bello is also an area of dagale, indeed it is known as “the long dagale” due to the particular shape of the woods surrounded by lava from 1950. One of the most beautiful dagala is Timparossa, where in autumn the trees filled with stunning red leaves surround a lovely hut. On the western side, Bosco Centorbi stands out, a large dagala that stretches to include Refuge Case Zampini.

The largest and most populated is Dagala del Re, which today is a neighbourhood of the town of Santa Venerina. Surrounded by ancient lava, it has now lost its characteristic of “oasis” as it is totally embraced by houses. It is itself a inhabited area. Yet the name itself indicates that it was a dagala, and so beautiful and interesting in the past that it became royal property (probably a hunting reserve).

What to do in the dagale

Why visit the dagale ? What can you do once on site? To begin with, one admires the power of nature in its fullness, both as an element of destruction and as an element of rebirth.

The dagale are shady and relaxing places, where to rest or to have a meal during an excursion. Some dagale host chestnuts or cherry trees, and therefore during the right seasons you can go there to collect these delicious fruits.

But you can go to the dagale even just to find a moment of silence, peace and personal well-being. To reflect or to free yourself from heavy thoughts, lulled by the embrace of nature. (photos by G.Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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