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The southern flank of Mt Etna, so as the eastern one, is the most troubled. It suffered many low altitude eruptions and opening of new vents, in centuries. Now they look like green hills but once they used to spit fire and destroy towns and cities of very ancient origins. Etna South is the “medieval” part of the volcano, an area of counts, princes, towers and castles. A land of churches and shrines with the top craters behind. Our itinerary will take us from Adrano to Pedara, via the Sapienza Refuge up above.

Etna South, Adrano and Biancavilla

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the norman tower of Adrano

Adrano used to be an important city of the Siculian people. It takes its name from their god of the war, Adranos. It was then conquered by Greeks, Romans and others, and changed the name into Adranon, Adernò and modern Adrano. The old town today looks very elegant. Palaces and churches, dating from the Middle Ages to the Baroque times, make it beautiful.

Do admire: the Norman Castle, a square tower of the 11th century made by Count Roger and now the seat of the Archaeologic Museum. Also deserve a visit: the main church, St Lucia monastery, the castle of Solicchiata and the archaeologic sites of Mendolito and Mura Ciclopiche. Not far from the city, along river Simeto, there is the charming Saracens Bridge.

Now we go down along the Etna South itinerary and enter Biancavilla. This old hamlet – once Albavilla, then dedicated to queen Bianca of Navarra – turned in time into a large town full of monuments. Its churches and palaces date from 16th to 19th century. Two pearls to admire: the church of Maria Santissima del Rosario and the Basilica Santa Maria dell’Elemosina. More to admire here: the Botanic Garden and the romantic route of the Water Mills, once used to irrigate the many legumes crops.

Between Paternò and Belpasso

Located along the road that still leads to Adrano (ancient Adernò), Paternò owes its name to the

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road signs “to Adernò“. But as a tourist reality it knows how to stand out very well. Important medieval town linked to lineages of princes – Altavilla, Artale Alagona, Moncada – it has a historic center gathered around a hill. On it stands the Norman tower (1072) with the “largest mullioned window in Italy”. An artistic eighteenth-century staircase connects the hill with the ancient heart of the city, where there are over forty churches and about thirty noble palaces. The main church, dedicated to Santa Barbara, is a small baroque jewel.

To admire, in Paternò: the Salinelle, for sure. They are volcanic phenomena linked to bubbling mud and sulphurous waters, located in different points of the territory. The most famous are the Salinelle dello Stadio, freely accessible. Others are located close to the Simeto river, “Salinelle del Fiume”, and on the road that connects the city to Belpasso (Salinelle San Biagio).

Belpasso is a town famous for its sweets and for its lava stone architecture. Among the most beautiful buildings certainly the Main Church of Maria Santissima Immacolata (18th century). Also admire Palazzo Bufali with the artistic angular balcony in carved lava stone. Other monuments are the church of St. Antonio of Padova, the Shrine of the Madonna della Rocca and the fourteenth-century Queen’s Well. This large well was commissioned by Eleonora d’Angiò. Belpasso is famous for nougat, cannoli and fabulous pistachio or almond granita ice-cream.

Etna South, from Nicolosi to Pedara

Going up towards the volcano, we enter Nicolosi. This delightful town immersed in the green of pine forests and urban groves looks like a quiet mountain place. Among the most important architectures: the Church of the Holy Spirit, St Maria delle Grazie, the medieval monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena. You can also visit two museums, the Volcan Museum and the Peasant Civilization. Relaxing in the beautiful pine forest is a must. Unless you want to go up … because the territory of Nicolosi reaches the top of Etna.

Thus you will find yourself at 1900 meters, between the old Silvestri Craters and the cableway station . From there, you can reach the summit craters of the volcano at 3000 meters. Or you can stay at the Sapienza Refuge, the heart of the Etna South tourist center, to enjoy good food with a view over the whole of eastern Sicily!

Descending again towards the valley, you pass through Pedara. Here too you will admire lava stone churches, the remains of a fort – Forte Mulino a Vento – the medieval hermitage of Santa Emilia. Walk through  Don Diego Pappalardo square and admire the elegant Palazzo dei Descendenti. Outside the town, here is the natural area of ??Mt Monpeluso with the homonymous cave. Pedara is also famous for its sweets and original cafes scattered among alleys and squares. (the photos are by Grazia Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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