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Mount Etna, for its people, is a woman. It is female, like a mother. A strict mother who always wants sacrifices but still will repay at the right time with great generosity. If you were born on this volcano and grew up here – or if you chose to live here – you will feel its strength and personality, inside. This is why the women of Etna, the girls with that DNA in their blood, are special.

They descend from women who, in the past, helped their farmer men also against a evil nature. As strong as lava rock, as generous as the volcanic soil, those women were a great support. Especially when you had to start it all over again, after earthquakes or eruptions. Their daughters and grand-daughters are like them. Here we want to tell the story of some of these women of Etna.

The maestra of Sicilian carts

Maestra Nerina Chiarenza was born in Acireale, in 1934. She was the daughter of a Sicilian carts’ maker and she grew up admiring her father’s work. Her big brother also worked on carts, he created the small decorative sculptures on the sides. Young Nerina helped a lot: she used to build wheels or to paint the sculptures. Though she got married at 15, she kept on painting when she had some time free. She took care of husband and family, as all women of the time were asked to do, but she never gave up her art.

Her painting technique improved more and more. When she grew older, as her family was finally independent, the maestra could paint Sicilian carts all the time. Her name became famous. Set designers, theatre and film directors, puppets theatres … they all were looking for her skills. And they still are! In 2013, Mrs. Chiarenza and her job were elected “intangible heritage of the Sicilian culture” by the Sicilian Region parliament.

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emma and francesca

Women of Etna’s good wine

Mrs. Chiarenza lives in Aci Sant’Antonio, a few kms away from Mount Etna. Much closer to the volcano live Emma and Francesca Grasso. They are two young twin sisters from Biancavilla, on the western flank of Etna. This land -literally holding on the mountain- is rich with old lavas and volcanic sand, so very fertile, and cultivated with vineyards. The twin girls run the family vineyard and mix old agricultural techniques with new experiments.

They produce a young wine called “Cucchie d’Oro” (sicilian for: the golden twins) made of local grape varieties and grapes from Piedmont. As a result, they got an excellent wine that was awarded at Lyon’s International Wine Contest in 2020. The Grasso sisters’ family farm, Podere dell’Etna Segreta, does not produce only wine. The two “etnean girls” also love to invent beers, liquors and new techniques to cultivate vegetables. Just like their “mountain mother”, Etna girls love to try, to change and to assert themselves in time.

The elegant art of the women of Etna

Always on the western flank of the volcano, we will now enter the pistachio fields of Bronte and,

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Etna on eruption by M Liotta

after passing the town, here is the immense expanse of lava: Piano dei Grilli. If you did not know this place, you will learn to love it through the photographs of Marisa Liotta – Maria, for the world of the web! Just  spend a few hours with her and you will understand the immense strength that comes from this thin and apparently fragile woman.

Wrong! Maria Liotta is a force of the nature and this is why she feels attracted to her “twin”, that restless mountain that she has always photographed. The “she-volcano” Etna seems to pose especially for her, who knows how to capture her powerful spirit and equally powerful beauty with a single click. With Maria you walk among the lava rocks, lay down in the bush so to get the best view for the perfect shot of Etna. Because she talks to the volcano, as with a friend. And it, docile, very often obeys!

Eleonora Greci’s art is very different. In her home at Milo, this ceramics artist creates objects with unique, revolutionary and beautiful colours and designs. Eleonora, despite being Sicilian, grew up far from Etna, in northern Italy. But when she returned to Sicily and chose the volcano as her home, she discovered that she still had that fabulous DNA in her veins. She was more than ever “a woman of Etna”. While admiring her works you can fully perceive the scent of the woods, the summer colours of the volcano, the destructive and at the same time vital force of it. Because even from a broken ceramic, a completely new object can be obtained, tied with a gold thread that makes it more precious.

The woman volcano

There are many other women of Etna who should be known, but a thousand pages would not be enough to describe them. The tourist guides, the ladies who manage high-altitude restaurants, the shop traders who bring to life places such as Piano Provenzana or Rifugio Sapienza. They are also protagonists of this volcano. There are women who make good honey, there are INGV scientific researchers who monitor every movement, every “breath” of Mount Etna. And they get along very well, because this is a “woman volcano”, the most beautiful goddess in the world.

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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