TRANSFEERO: Reliable airport transfers worldwide
Book a private transfer at over 1500 airports, stations and ports worldwide

The north side of Mount Etna is the coldest and most “alpine”. The temperatures remain balanced or low for most of the year, on this side. It is no coincidence that the ski and snowboard schools are located here. The north side of Etna consists of ancient craters, very dense woods, glaciers and villages of medieval origin that still retain their dreamy aspect. Yet in this scenario that looks so old there is no shortage of very modern ideas for mountain excursions. We propose two interesting itineraries to lead to Etna North. Possibly in spring or summer, but also in cold seasons – especially if you love autumn “red leaves” or snowshoeing.

From Linguaglossa to the Etna caves


etna north itinerary02
pine woods

Linguaglossa (the name apparently derives from “large tongue of ancient lava”) is a town born in Norman times. Settlers from the nearby Castiglione came to exploit the pine forests of the area, so to obtain the precious resin. Later, thanks to the rich soil, vines they planted vines and Linguaglossa became one of the most important wine production centers in Sicily. In the city it is still possible to admire beautiful churches, many of which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. But what attracts tourists to Linguaglossa today is the excellent locally produced sausage.They also love the splendid murals that decorate every corner of the old town and above all the many agencies that organize excursions to Mount Etna.

From Linguaglossa it is easy to reach the north side of the volcano, especially the large pine and oak forests. The most famous pine forest is Ragabo Wood, where at the end of the paths you come to two refuges: Ragabo and Brunek. From this start excursions to admire some splendid volcanic caves: Grotta dei Lamponi, Grotta delle Colombe and Grotta del Gelo (“the southernmost glacier in Europe”), to name a few. Tour operators in the area are well organized for excursions with quad bikes, which allow you to explore even the driest expanses of lava. But you can also go up through the woods on the back of a donkey. Or accompany the sweet alpacas – a herd recently introduced in Sicily – to pastures. At the end of the itinerary, returning to Linguaglossa, enjoy a nice dinner based on grilled sausage and good wine!

Linguaglossa, Castiglione and the magical Randazzo

Starting from Linguaglossa, the second itinerary will take a tour of the medieval towns that wind along the road

etna north itinerary03
church st.maria, Randazzo

that goes around the volcano. You will go up to Solicchiata, land of many cellars of excellent Etna wines, to then arrive in Castiglione di Sicilia. This large village has very ancient origins, in fact it dates back to the Greek domination. But it was the Normans, with the construction of the castle that can still be visited today, who made it a very important center for trades and military defense.

Today in Castiglione you can visit beautiful churches, an ancient prison, the castle. This and more make its historic center unique. But going down to the valley, at the foot of the hill on which the town stands, you can admire more. Two ancient churches, for example: the Byzantine “cuba” of St. Domenica and the Romanesque chapel of St. Nicola. Both are located a short distance from the river Alcantara, in the point where it makes the jump that introduces it into the famous gorges. From Castiglione it is compulsory to go visit Randazzo. This town is larger, but still retains the typical appearance of a medieval Norman center.

To this day Randazzo is still divided into neighbourhoods, each linked to a church. The Latin Quarter gravitates around the main church of St. Maria, the Greek Quarter gravitates around St Nicolò and the Lombard one has the church of St. Martino as its center. The most beautiful building in Randazzo is certainly St. Maria. It is entirely built in blocks of black lava stone that alternate with decorations in white stone and marble. Do admire, however, also the Via degli Archi, a street surmounted by beautiful Gothic arches, the Royal Palace – ancient seat of kings and meetings of the Sicilian Parliament. Worth a visit to the Vagliasindi Archaeological Museum which collects the Greek and Roman remains of the area. The itinerary ends in Randazzo with a dinner in one of the delightful restaurants in the old town.

How to get there

You get to Etna North via the Catania-Messina A18 motorway, exit at Giardini Naxos and take the State Street 185 leading to Castiglione di Sicilia. Then you will join the SS 120 road which leads to Randazzo and Linguaglossa.

If you want to follow the itinerary as we have described it instead, leave the motorway at Fiumefreddo exit. Then drive along the SS120 road leading from Fiumefreddo to Randazzo via Linguaglossa. To see Castiglione you will have to make a detour in the middle.

The nearest airport is Fontanarossa, Catania. (photos by G Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

Airport Transfers