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Many people prefer to go to Piedimonte Etneo in autumn, at harvest time. In fact, this village located on the northern side of Etna is one of the capitals of that unique wine which takes its spectacular characteristics from our volcano. But discovering Piedimonte in spring, especially in March, is as well an exciting tourist adventure.

Piedimonte Etneo, the “panoramic point” of Etna

Piedimonte was founded in the 17th century as a land possession of Baron Gravina-Cruyllas of Palagonia and its ancient name was “Belvedere” (panoramic point). In fact, from here you could enjoy, and still do today, a wonderful view of both the volcano and the coast at its foot. From Piedimonte you dominate the world! The current name derives from an ancient noble villa, Villa Pie’ del Monte (at the foot of the mountain) which was preferred to Belvedere after the unification of Italy. The strong similarity with the much better known Piedmont meant that the name “Etneo” was added to make a distinction.

The fact that a large part of the Piedimonte area is cultivated with vineyards does not take away the magic of spring from the place, when fruit trees full of flowers stand out among the rows. The scents are intense in this season, the views rich in colour. And the town’s delightful cafes are full of delights, including pastries, cassatas and granitas.

What to see in Piedimonte

Piedimonte Etneo is one of the gateways to Etna and its wonders. But the town is already a small treasure chest itself: the Main Church of the Madonna del Rosario, the church of Sant’Ignazio, the Capuchin convent, the Sanctuary of San Gerardo, the Basilian abbey of San Michele Arcangelo. The most obvious and beautiful symbol of Piedimonte, however, is the the ancient double-coloured stone gate of Porta San Fratello. You can still admire its two large lava stone columns that once supported the hinges of a gigantic door. Two hamlets, Vena and Presa, are also part of the Piedimonte territory. The Santa Maria della Vena Sanctuary features a church from the 1930s, but with a thousand-year history. Here an icon of Mary on a wooden panel of clear Byzantine style (and perhaps also from the period) is venerated. From the terrace of the sanctuary you can enjoy a spectacular view of the town and the coast.

From Piedimonte to Presa

Not far from the center of Piedimonte, on the road that leads to the eastern side of Etna, there is the village of Presa. In ancient times, this was a Basilian convent, then acquired in 1398 by the lords of the fiefdom, the Gravina family. Famous for its woods, for its panoramic points and – today – also for the artistic murals that decorate some of the houses, Presa links its name to a source of pure water (presa means the “water intake”).

Today the destination of a happy summer holiday tourism, the village begins to come to life in spring. The main church of the Madonna delle Grazie and the smaller one of the Calvario are the religious and artistic landmarks of the place.

How to get to Piedimonte and Presa

To reach Piedimonte and Presa, the quickest route is the A18 Messina-Catania motorway (Fiumefreddo exit) – or alternatively the state road SS 114 Messina-Siracusa – then following from Fiumefreddo the signs for the Statale 120.
By train you always get off at Fiumefreddo. The nearest airport is Catania-Fontanarossa, 56 km from the town. (PHOTOS BY G MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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