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One of the most beautiful itineraries to follow, for those coming to Sicily for the first time, is certainly the one that leads from Piazza Armerina to  Mount Etna. A tourist route that explores some inland areas of the island, their secrets, while approaching the great volcano from the west. Piazza Armerina is a medieval town in the district of Enna. It is mostly known for its splendid Roman villa rich in mosaics. A must for a tourist,  of course, but between ancient rooms and sunny fields there is much more to see. Here are two ideas for your exciting journey from Piazza Armerina to Etna.

From Piazza Armerina to the “Calanchi”

Piazza Armerina is the starting point of our itinerary towards Etna. If you are in Piazza Armerina, surely you will have to visit the Roman villa del Casale. The building dates back to the 3rd  century AD . It was recovered in 1950 and shows the noble rooms of a Roman summer residence. The beautiful mosaics are almost completely intact and express the use for which the rooms were designed.

The figures of the dancers “in bikini” are very famous in the world. So are the spectacular giant mosaics of the so-called corridor of the “Great Hunt”. The archaeological itinerary ends with a small museum. There you find the objects gradually found and connected to the villa.  From Piazza Armerina, the itinerary continues towards Catenanuova. This is an interesting town with 17th century churches and a large suburban park. In this oasis of greenery you will forget the arid fields and clearings around.

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the Calanchi clay hills

Heading towards Catania, the territory changes. It becomes first pasture and then an expanse of clay. Near the town of Sferro you can admire the “Calanchi”, clay hills that change shape and height according to the erosion of the elements. Not far from Sferro, here is Paternò. The city shows a beautiful Baroque historic center and a hill on which stands the Norman Castle (year 1072). It is actually a single massive tower of lava stone with the largest mullioned window in the South. Going north of Paternò you already arrive on the body of the volcano. This is demonstrated by the many lava caves in the Ragalna area . Here you can also visit the Nuova Gussonea Botanical Garden which reproduces the Etnean vegetation in all its aspects. From Ragalna to  Sapienza Mountain Refuge, Etna Sud, it only takes a few kilometers drive.

From Piazza Armerina to Adrano

An alternative visit could start from Piazza Armerina center. The town of the Roman villa deserves a more in-depth visit, because of its historic center. It dates back to a large period between the 15th and 18th centuries and is rich in interesting architecture. The gigantic cathedral dominates the city from the top of the hill while castles and baroque palaces adorn the neighboring streets. Instead of descending towards Catania, your second itinerary will take you from Piazza Armerina

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Adrano’s town center

towards Regalbuto. This small agricultural center deserves for the main church, a Baroque building dedicated to St Basilio. You will then continue north-west, towards Adrano. The central square – with the gigantic Norman Tower, the Mother Church, the Monastery of Santa Lucia – gives an idea of  its prestige.

Outside the city stands the beautiful Ponte dei Saraceni on the Simeto river. From Adrano you get to Bronte, the capital of pistachio. This delightful 17th century center gravitates around the nearby Norman castle of Nelson. Bronte is also the western gate to Etna . The advice, for those who follow this itinerary, is to explore Piano dei Grilli. In the midst of ancient lava expanses, the road winds between giant broom trees and extinct craters, with Etna – suggestive – rising in the background.

Places not to be missed

Along the Calanchi route, do not miss: the ancient city of Piazza Armerina in the Montagna di Marzo archaeological area. The Simeto river near Paternò. Still in Paternò, visit the salinelle – the mud volcanoes – both in the surroundings and in the town’s center.

Along the Adrano route, do not miss: the Simeto ravines (lava gorges). The town of Maletto not far from Bronte. Lake Gurrida a few kilometers north of the town of Bronte. (photos by G.Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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