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Once upon a time, in Sicily, donkeys were the only means of transport and work. The most accessible to all, even to the poor people. The rich ones showed off horses and carriages, the peasants and merchants relied on these more resistant and stubborn animals. With the advent of progress, the donkey has been abandoned to itself to the point that it is facing extinction today.

To save it and prevent it from disappearing forever from the island, some farms and tourist farmhouses have “adopted” it to entertain guests. Many use it for healthy and excellent milk – perfect for people with cow’s milk allergies. Others use it to organize excursions on rough but beautiful territories. Like those of Mount Etna.

The donkey trekking

etna donkey1A donkey trip means making the animal do most of the effort, in a “trekking” that will not cost us the least effort. But the donkey is strong, hard, determined and even with a loaded back it can face climbs and rocks. In return, it becomes a star! And tourism becomes eco-friendly, relaxing and non-polluting.

On Etna, this kind of tourism has only been rediscovered for twenty years and it works. The lavic area of the volcano is beautiful but also heavy to face. Therefore, often an excursion is carried out with excessive effort without enjoying the landscape.

Or you walk too fast to get over the toughest parts early. Or again, you go by jeep, admiring nature from behind a glass. Exploring the volcano by donkey ride, on the other hand, means you are forced to walk slowly. You will enjoy every ditch, every hill, every color of the forest. You will feel part of the nature.

Etna, the donkey rides itineraries

A good advice? Use the jeep to get quickly to the starting points of the donkey trips, but once up here … let it do it all. Sit comfortably on its back and, guided by the breeder, take a slow pace along the paths that go up to the old lavas of North Etna or around the extinct craters and woods of the western area.

The most famous donkey routes, on Mount Etna, are almost all on the north side. The starting point is in Piano Provenzana, near the chair lift. Here, four donkeys – she-donkeys, to be exact! – await tourists in summer to lead them discovering wonderful places.

In one hour you can reach the Corruccio Cave or Monte Baracca area. In Corruccio you can visit a cave created by the flowing of lava itself. With two hours of calm ride you get to the Pitarrone Barracks, but also to the lava flow of 2002 that threatened the town of Linguaglossa. A little further along the path you will reach the Lamponi Cave and the Craters of the Bottoniera (2002).

A two-day ride

Those who love adventure surrounded by nature can not miss one of the most beautiful and long routes, on the back of a donkey. A two-day ride at the calm step of the animal, among woods, rocks and bursts of theetna donkey2 volcano, including overnight stop. You will almost make the half-mountain tour to reach the grove and the Timparossa refuge. You will stop for a night and end with a good outdoor lunch.

Located in the center of a forest that lights up in very warm colors in autumn, the Timparossa refuge is a wooden construction. It is full of comfort and ready to host visitors both during the day and – with blankets and stove – at night. In summer you can enjoy the cool of the trees, the shade and the scents of the woods. In autumn the extraordinary colors explain the reason for such a romantic name (meaning “red hill”).

With the donkey on the snow

You can also go donkey ride in winter, with deep snow. Obviously the routes change, the travel time never exceeds two hours. You will also visit villages and monuments of human work, not only nature. Donkeys are used to moving in all conditions, even on slippery terrain or in the mud of the melted snow.

Their peaceful step will allow you to admire a unique landscape, whitewashed, different from the usual vision of Etna in the collective imagination. An experience to try, even in this season. Of course it is better to book in advance ([email protected]), in winter, to get information on time about the weather conditions

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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