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If you want to take a few moments of spirituality on Mount Etna, choose Piano Vetore to do so. Here, on this grassy plain that opens to the south-west flank, overlooking the summit craters that almost seem to fall on you, there are two small churches. One of which is located outdoors, made with materials from the forest and the volcano, so as to blend in with it.

Piano Vetore

Piano Vetore is perhaps the most touristy place on Etna after the nearby Rifugio Sapienza (5 minutes by car from here) and after Piano Provenzana. Many people from Catania come here in search of fresh air – or fun – especially on Sundays. In summer, thanks to the groves that surround it, it offers refreshment and tranquility; in winter it is the perfect place for children to play in the snow safely.

In every season, Piano Vetore is an excellent observation point in case of Etna eruptions. From here the lava fountains from the craters can be admired without visual obstacles and above all with the sensation of being right “inside” the event.

Located in the territory of the municipality of Ragalna, on this plateau you find: a hotel, restaurants and picnic areas, the astronomical observatory and the two small churches we were telling you about.

The chalet-church and the log-church

The church of the Madonna delle Nevi (video here) is located right next to the tourist facilities of Piano Vetore. At first you may miss it, because its architecture in the shape of a Tyrolean hut confuses it with the other buildings around. Only the cross, or rather “the crosses”, located next to the entrance door will make you understand that it is a sacred place. The large wooden slopes of the roof,and the artistic glass window make its external appearance captivating, while inside the simplicity of the typical sacred mountain place dominates. It is always open on Sunday mornings.

A little further on, in the center of the large plateau, there is an open-air “church” made of logs. The seats emerge between the tall grass and lava stones, they are made by nailing together long planks of rough wood. At the front, an equally rustic altar, with a large wooden cross that shades the lava rock on which the words of Pope John Paul II are engraved: “Listen in silence/to the voice of nature/in order to transform into prayer/ our admiration.”

The ceremonies at the log church

Anyone can enjoy and use the outdoor log church, for a photo or a prayer, at any time. But the big celebration of this place usually takes place on May 13th, the day dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. On that occasion, people make a pilgrimage up here and a mass is celebrated – weather permitting – under the setting sun.

On this occasion, the priest reminds of the Virgin Mary and Pope John Paul II . The first mass was celebrated here in 2009, when a project dedicated to the “Mountain Pope” began, thanks to Carmelo Nicoloso, Maurizio del Bosco and especially Tom Perry, the barefoot mountaineer who, in honor of Wojtyla, retraced by a long walk all the mountain stages loved by the pontiff , Etna included.

Not just religion…

If you are not the religious type, you can still go up and admire these two small churches, with the spirit of those who love art which is also expressed through raw natural materials. Pausing for a moment in front of the church of the Madonna delle Nevi to enjoy the shade of the trees, or sitting on the worked logs of the small external church, perhaps while admiring a puff of ash from the large craters of the volcano… These are moments of psycho-physical well-being that go beyond religious belief . And instead they have a lot to do with nature’s peace of mind. (PHOTOS BY GRAZIA MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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