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In autumn, many plants lose their green colour to take on very lively tones, such as golden yellow, red, even orange. This phenomenon is due to the process of  the leaves that die off while waiting for spring. The yellow and orange colours, typical of most plants, are due to the decrease in chlorophyll which activates the carotenoid pigments.

Some plants, on the other hand, take on a more intense colour. In that case it is the anthocyanin pigments that interact with the decrease in chlorophyll, creating red, garnet or even purple shades. Many locations around the world are famous for “foliation” (or feuillage) – as this event is called. For example, the northeastern states of the United States (Maine, Connecticut, Massachussetts), Canada, Germany, the English countryside. In Sicily this show is offered by Mount Etna.

When to go

The best time to admire the show of the red leaves on Etna is between the end of October and the 15th of November. However, everything is conditioned by the summer rains and the contrast with the outside temperatures. If the rains were abundant in August and September was mild, you are more likely to have red leaves.

If it hasn’t rained at all or the cold has arrived too soon, the phenomenon could last for a very short time and you will miss it. You have to be a careful watcher to have the opportunity to see the foliation on Etna. It usually lasts just one week, and even less, if there is wind. But if you are ready and well informed you will not miss a minute of this show.

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red leaves at Piano Provenzana

Where are the red leaves

In order to admire the red leaves, we suggest you to go to the southern flank of Mount Etna. Or to some places between eastern and northern sides. To the south, the woods of Pedara or the routes of Piano del Vescovo are the best places. If the weather conditions have been favourable, you will enjoy wonderful views over there. Otherwise, try the Citelli Hut surrounded by woods of Etna birches, all turned as gold in this season.

A beautiful feuillage is also at Piano Provenzana, on both sides of the large old lava stream that touches the chairlift station. Trees, here, have fire-red, orange, golden leaves creating a nice contrast with the evergreen woods typical of this altitude. Also are evergreen the pine woods of Ragabo, but at the foot of the pines the ferns are all red by late October! As you leave the wood walking along the route that goes to Timparossa Hut, here you will meet more “red leaves” all around.

The Red Leaves Tour

Combine the show of the nature with a nice guided tour of Mount Etna. And with tastings of local food, too. For example, go up to Piano del Vescovo after stopping in the square of Zafferana Etnea, where you may have had breakfast with an excellent “Sciatore” cookie.

Then you will head towards Milo, admiring the view from the Belvedere square, before leaving for Fornazzo and taking the road that leads to Citelli. Here, have a good coffee in front of the yellow-leaved birch trees and then continue to Piano Provenzana. You could have lunch in one of the restaurants in the area, after walking in the shade of trees with flaming  foliage.

Or enjoy the red leaves as much as you like and then descend to Linguaglossa for lunch. Ask for the excellent local sausage (make sure it is “cooked on the tile”!) and the wines of Etna. After lunch, to end the day worthily, take a walk among the wonderful murals that decorate the streets of the town. You will then return home … perhaps with a packet of  toasted chestnuts bought just around the corner!  (photos by Grazia Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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