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The beauty of a high and ancient volcano like Mount Etna is also manifested in its “mountain” characteristics. Indeed, unlike other more arid volcanoes, Etna reaches heights that allow it to have well-defined seasons and well-defined phenomena linked to them. The moment of snowmelt is one of those fascinating phenomena which, thanks to the volcanic nature of the ground, take on particular shapes and situations. There is, for example, a stream that “lives” only a few weeks or a few days a year, that is only in the spring: the Sciambro – or “the Forty Hours”- stream.

Where on Mount Etna is the Forty Hours stream

The course of the stream begins just above the vent-line of the Sartorius Craters, on the north side of Etna, and descends until it cuts the path of the Mareneve road (the one that leads to Refuge Citelli and Piano Provenzana). Its bed, recognizable by the remarkably smooth stones much paler than the common lava of the volcano, plunges into a small channel called Vallone delle Quaranta Ore (video here). The stream is therefore visible from the road even if you stay comfortably in your car. But it is certainly more interesting to go and walk along its course.

40 hours water stream 2Why “forty hours”?

The official name of the stream is the Sciambro River, but for the inhabitants of Etna it is the Forty Hours stream (Fort’Hours). Indeed, it is fed exclusively by snowmelt or spring rains at high altitudes, so it is filled with water a few days a year.

To be more exact, its life lasts more than forty hours, indeed it is often active for weeks, between April and May. But not always continuously. It is a watercourse that manifests in a single season and remains dry for the remaining ten months of the year. Hence the charm and the privilege of being on site at the very moment when the it is in full flow.

Also due to the fact that it is never possible to predict exactly when the water will flow to valley, it is always advisable to follow the nature trail of the stream with a local guide, so to avoid accidents.

The hiker’s path

The Forty Hours stream’s route excursion starts comfortably from the driveway and continues, cautiously, along the edges of the river bed. Following its course, you will cross woods and some steep points of land to find it a little further downstream.

In about an hour of walking, you reach a clearing surrounded by some trees which also offers views of the top of the volcano. From there you can reach Refuge Baracca by returning into the woods. If you want to walk one more hour between lava rocks and pine forests, you will arrive at Piano Provenzana instead. Otherwise, return to the car and visit the nearby Sartorius Craters in full comfort.

How to get to the stream

To reach the Sciambro-Forty Hours stream, just take the normal Mareneve road that connects Zafferana and Milo to Linguaglossa, passing through Citelli and Piano Provenzana. The stream is located well before the crossroads of Citelli, much closer to Milo than to the town of Linguaglossa – with which it shares the municipal administrative territory. From Zafferana Etnea it takes about 30 minutes by car. From Linguaglossa just under one hour drive. (photos by Grazia Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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