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It is not easy to get to Grotto of Serracozzo, on the north-east side of Mt Etna. When you get there, then, you shall come to terms with … its “ghost”. Do not be scared, though. It is a very nice ghost that will leave you speechless for sure. But not for fear, for so much beauty. And perhaps the place’s name itself explains this feeling of intense emotion. Something that makes your neck’s nape (“cozzo” in Sicilian) shiver, closed in the grip (serra) of surprise!

How Grotto of Serracozzo formed

Grotto of Serracozzo is a lava flow cave, one of so many of Etna. This means it was created by the flowing of the lava stream, during the eruption. When the lava goes underground, it forms a hard cover outside while keeps on flowing and digging the rock inside. So it creates tunnels.

As soon as the eruption is over, these empty tunnels – very long too, sometimes – remain in the volcano’s womb. As time and seasons go by, as small earthquakes happen, parts of the grottos do collapse opening “windows” here and there. So the light comes in. During the long eruption of 1971 which almost reached the village of Fornazzo, Grotto of Serracozzo was formed this way.

The grotto and the “ghost”

serracozzo grotto
photo by ignazio mannarano

The grotto looks like a crack in the rock, apparently very narrow but still easy to access. After the entrance you find yourself in an environment in the shape of a “keyhole”, very high and about 3 meters wide. Moving towards the bottom of the cave, you enter the lowest sliding tunnel that goes on for 350 meters underground. As you progress, the ground becomes more and more sloping and slippery . So it can cause you to fall.

However, the beauty of Serracozzo is  in the first room, the entrance one. Due to some collapses in the vault, between the first room and the tunnel, the light enters at certain times of the day. Two large rays  frame the particular shape of the cavity. This light on the edges, and the shadow area in the center, appears to some as a gigantic human shape. Like a “human being” dressed in a long black cassock, to be exact. A sort of a horror vision, a real “ghost” that awaits you at the bottom of the cave! Who will have the courage to face it?

It does not matter if you feel brave or afraid, what matters is that you do not even try to face “the ghost” alone. Not so much the optical illusion of the giant monk as, instead,  the lava tunnel. You must go with expert guides and make sure you are equipped with all the safety devices for a speleological excursion. Always obey what the guide will tell you. There is no joking with the volcanic grottos and the always possible collapses that characterize them.

How to get to Serracozzo

Drive from Zafferana Etnea towards Milo and continue beyond the town, up to Fornazzo. Here follow the signs towards Etna Nord and Citelli. Continue for a few kilometers on the Strada Mareneve road, along the north-east flank of the volcano.

Once you reach the Citelli Refuge, park in the spacious square in front of the hut. After that, go back on the road for about 50 meters until you reach the entrance to  Serracozzo Path. From there begins a route that is not long (1.6 km, one way) but very hard. You have to face several climbs and descents between lava gullies and stream beds. After a long part of the route through birch woods, you find yourself in an open plain with little vegetation. Here you will read the signs for the cave.

The path is constantly indicated by red signs and arrows on trunks, rocks and boulders. This allows even the less experienced to follow it. But it is always good to go with those who know the way, because a small detour off the path is enough to lose orientation. And the area is full of ditches, cliffs and caves camouflaged among the vegetation.

More useful information

Grotto of Serracozzo is about an hour and twenty drive from the center of Catania. Do follow the A18 motorway (Acireale or Giarre exit) and then the provincial roads (SP) towards Zafferana Etnea and Milo. From Messina (ferry boarding) it takes an hour and fifty drive via A18 and provincial roads.

To reach it from Taormina you travel for less than an hour and twenty. While among the nearest tourist resorts there is Aci Trezza. From there, in fact, the grotto is just one hour drive away.

The closest airport, of course, is Catania’s Fontanarossa. (THE PHOTO ABOVE THE TITLE IS BY

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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