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The location called “le Ripe della Naca” (the ropes of the cradle), on the eastern side of Mount Etna, is always suggestive and fascinating, in every season. But seeing and experiencing it in winter, possibly with snow, is an emotional experience you won’t easily forget. These “ropes” are actually enormous “waterfalls of lava” that poured down the ridge in November 1928, during the dramatic eruption that destroyed the town of Mascali. Try to imagine the spectacle of those days … five rivers of fire flowing down the hill, fed by a low-altitude fracture that put more than one town in danger, before devastating Mascali. Today, these rocky monuments remain of that dramatic scenery. And in winter they are filled with magic.

How to get to the Ripe della Naca

Two routes will lead you to the Ripe della Naca. One route is easy and direct. You can get there by car through a little-traveled side street along the road that connects Milo and Linguaglossa. You park right in front of the hill where you can admire the rocky streams and, if you are lucky enough to find snow there, you will appreciate the contrast between the black lava and the white.

The second route starts from the small church of Magazzeni, in the territory of Sant’Alfio. Leave the car near the church, walk for 2 km along the road that winds northwards, on the right. In the shade of chestnut and hazel trees, in about half an hour’s walk you will arrive at the ancient eruptive vents of 1928 and the Ripe della Naca.

ripedellanaca 2Beautiful in winter

Why is it nice to go to the Ripe della Naca in winter? Because the snow here often lasts for a long time and at certain hours of the morning it is even possible to admire real “sculptures” forged by the slow melting. The whitewashed panorama makes both the lava falls and the cone of Etna stand out even more. The summit craters can be seen very close up, from here. The comfortable road and the flat terrain allow you to play in the snow especially with children, who will find many corners in which to have fun at the foot of the Ripe. Finally, the whitewashed Ripe della Naca are the true symbol of the Etna winter. When the snow highlights the rocky streams, these look from a distance as a strange Roman numeral (IIX) which is why they are also known as “The Roman Numbers”.

History of the Ripe della Naca eruption

Between 2 and 6 November 1928, following an eruption at the summit craters – in particular at the North East Crater – some eruptive fractures spread even at low altitude. The first fracture produced some lava flows directed towards Sant’Alfio which however stopped before entering the town. From a second fracture, however, the flows emerged which, finding an easy path along the bed of the Pietrafucile creek, managed to reach the outskirts of Mascali. The town was totally destroyed, except for the hamlet of Sant’Antonino. The Ripe della Naca appeared when the lava flows passed the ridge, taking the path of the creek down to the valley. (PHOTOS BY G MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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