On Etna it is possible to follow different paths, all unique for their naturalistic, landscape and volcanological features. The points of interest shown below can be considered as reference elements for undertaking different paths:
1. Park Headquarters
The headquarters of Parco dell’Etna are just a little uphill of the town of Nicolosi, about 831 metres above sea level. They occupy what was once the 18th-century version of the Benedictine monastery of San Nicolò la Rena, founded in 1156, during Norman rule, by Simon, son of Henry of Policastro, brother-in-law of the Great Count Roger I of Sicily.
Behind the large building, the ruins of the original monastery are still visible, while in the front, there is a large, partially buried and elegant cistern, with four symmetrically set out spouts.
2. Casa della Capinera
A hospitality structure, at 905 metres, created by Parco dell’Etna after purchasing a building used for some years as storage and accommodation by farmers working the surrounding land. It is a short distance from Monte Cicirello, a small volcanic cone with summit at 1098 metres. From Casa della Capinera, you can take trails 740 and 731. As well as these trails, it is possible to reach the basin of Monte Ilice, one of the largest of the volcanic cones dotted around the sides of Etna.
3. Case Bevacqua
The rural complex of Case Bevacqua is a large group of houses, sheds and production facilities at an altitude of 1013 metres. The story of this structure reflects the story of Etna’s whole eastern slope, prevalently used to grow wine since the first decades of the 19th century. An inscription on the keystone of the entrance to one of the buildings in fact bears the date 1803. In this period, Case Bevacqua were the hub of a vast area used to grow grapes, an unusual fact given the high altitude on the volcano, and is now woodland where oak, chestnut and walnut trees are grown. This is the starting point for routes 728 and 729.
4. Rifugio Citelli
Built for Prof. Salvatore Citelli on the edge of Monte Concazze in 1935, on an area made available by Cav. Paternò del Toscano. The refuge and the land were donated to Catania Section of the CAI (Italian Mountaineering Club). It is located at 1741 metres and can be reached via an asphalt road, while until the 1950s, it could only be reached after a three-hour walk from Fornazzo. It has been renovated recently, using funds from Parco dell’Etna and now it has a small restaurant and can also sleep up to 15 people. The refuge is also a starting point for Route 723, or a meeting point for the Sentiero Italia (Grand Italian Trail – 724).
5. Rifugio di Monte Manfrè
This is a small structure that can sleep up to 10 people. It is located at the bottom of Monte Manfré, a lateral cone, at 1460 metres, covered in woods of chestnut trees, hazels and oaks, and featuring a deep cleft in its steep sides. It is crossed by the Trail 786, which starts in the town of Belpasso and thanks to its continuation (Trail 786B), it will take you up to the Altomontana Path (Trail 701).
6. Case Caldarera
A small hospitality structure at 1000 metres on the North face of Etna in the municipality of Randazzo. It has been adapted from a rural building and was recently renovated and made available by Parco dell’Etna. From here, it is possible to access the trails 717, 718 and 719, which lead onto the Altomontana Path (Trail 701).
7. Piano dei Grilli
Piano dei Grilli is the Base Point for Hike no. 6 in Parco dell’Etna. It can be reached directly from the town of Bronte, using a road paved in lava rock, which ends in a gate that marks the beginning of the state property where motorised vehicles are prohibited. The area in front of the gate, at 1156 metres, is the barracks owned by the Municipality of Bronte, now a refuge thanks to the contribution of a private association, which offers refreshments. This is the start of the Trail 710, which, at the end of its route, arrives at the Altomontana Path (Trail 701).
8. Sciare di S. Venera – C.da Edera – Lago Gurrida
This is an area with a rare hydrogeological phenomenon: the River Flascio and the Torrente della Saracena stream, which flow down from Monti Nebrodi, breaking against the low slopes of Etna in a flat area, occupied by thick, ancient lava rock, which is fractured and permeable. The result is that, here and there, especially in spring, pools of water form along with small streams and waterfalls, while the dry areas are dominated by yellow ferula and white asphodel flowers.
The area is also home to archaeological remains from the 6th-9th centuries AD, relics of Byzantine and then Arab occupation.
A similar aquatic phenomenon means that, for the majority of the year, 4 km to the east, is Lake Gurrida, with its interesting birdlife.
9. Piano dell’Acqua
This is a small flattish area, at a height of about 700 metres, a short distance from Ballo, a district of Zafferana Etnea. Its name comes from the fact that it contains some drainage points on the side of Valle di San Giacomo, which supply water to the towns below. Trails 704 and 724 can be reached from here, together with the Sentiero delle Ginestre trail. It also marks the starting point of Trail 742, leading to the top of Monte Calanna, an excellent vantage point, with views over the inner Bove Valley.
10. Rifugio Sapienza
Located at 1910 metres, this is a hotel converted from a barracks, known as “Capanna Montagnola”, built by the Voluntary Militia for National Security (Blackshirts) and left unfinished with the outbreak of the second World War. With the fall of Fascism, the facility was given to the Catania section of the CAI, which completed it and used it as a refuge-hotel. The building was extended to twice its size in the 1960s and completely renovated ten years ago. One of Etna’s two skiing stations was gradually built up around it in the latter part of the 20th century, thanks to the presence of a cable car and some ski-lifts. This area offers access, on foot or by cable lift (or even off-road vehicle) to the summit area.
Rifugio Sapienza is also crossed by the Altomontana Path (701).
11. Piano Provenzana
A very large flat stretch at an altitude of 1900 metres, where the pine forest, Pineta di Linguaglossa thins out towards the bare volcanic slopes above. It is a known station for winter sports and has a sequence of five lifts and numerous eating spots.
It also offers an off-road coach service to take you up towards the summit.
There used to be some hospitality facilities, but these were demolished by a sudden and devastating eruption in 2002, the results of which can still be seen today.
Piano Provenzana is crossed by trails 702, 724 and 721.
12. Pineta Ragabo
This is a part of the much larger Pineta di Linguaglossa pine wood, at 1400 metres, and borders an area known as Piano della Pernicana. It is located along the provincial road from Linguaglossa to Piano Provenzana. It offers two eating areas and also the end of the long route (approx. 38 km), known as the Altomontana Path.
13. Piano Fiera
This is a flattish area with a particular charm that comes from the natural setting and silence all around. It is dotted with pines and enclosed by three volcanic cones, set out in a semicircle (Monte Gallo, Monte Testa and Monte Forno). From here it is possible to access the trails to the Altomontana Path or which go down towards Casa Bosco Prato Fiorito (707, 708, 708A and 708B). It can be reached by asphalt road from the towns of Adrano, Biancavilla, Ragalna and Nicolosi.
14. Filiciusa Milia
This is the name given to a district extending from an altitude of 1300 to 1600 metres, bordering the district, which is used to grow olives, and where the state property is occupied by a dense wood of lariccio pines. Just past the bar bordering the state property, there is a refuge belonging to the State Forestry Agency, which is the Base Point for Hike no. 2. This is also the departure point for Trail 705 to the Altomontana Path (701)
15. Case Bosco Prato Fiorito
This is a long, sun-kissed hamlet at an altitude of 1077 metres in the municipality of Adrano, which in the past was dedicated to such agriculture as was possible at such a height and which suffered the snow in winter. It is also a starting point for Trail 708, which leads up to an area of particular interest because it features numerous volcanic cones from different periods.
16. Casermetta Forestale (or Rifugio) La Nave
From the village of Maletto, it is possible to access the middle area of the volcano, on a road that can be travelled using a private vehicle, which must be left alongside Monte La Nave, the start of Trail 713. The barracks is located along the trail, a short way from the Altomontana Path and has a small area that can serve as emergency accommodation for excursionists.
17. Case Bosco Chiuso
Before it was bought by the State Forestry Agency, it was known as Case Pappalardo, named for the last owner of the houses, which were built to serve the lumber business carried out there. They are located at 1219 metres and are one of the two natural access points to the middle area of Etna, starting out from the village of Maletto. They can be reached by private vehicle, although vehicles must be left at the barrier to continue along Trail 712, where motor vehicles are prohibited.
18. Stazione di arrivo della Funivia
The intermediate station of Etna’s cable car was located at 2500 m until 1971, but after the top part was destroyed by lava, it was decided not to rebuild it and to use off-road coaches to take tourists up to the summit area. However, the bottom half was also destroyed by lava by an eruption in 2001 and had to be rebuilt.
As well as the transport service, it is possible to proceed on foot to enjoy the splendid panorama along the Bove Valley, or to continue up to the summit area.
19. Piano del Vescovo
A small flat area, now crossed by the provincial road, S.P. 92 from Zafferana Etnea to the area of Rifugio Sapienza. The name is a reminder that the area and much of the Bove Valley was owned by the Archbishopric of Catania, who used it to earn money from trading snow and lumber. Piano del Vescovo is located at the bottom of a high ledge in basalt rock, known as “Acqua Rocca degli Zappini” and it is a point for joining Trail 727, which, after being crossed by a lava tunnel, leads to Serra del Salfizio.
20. Rifugio Galvarina
This is the best known of the bivouacs owned by the State Forestry Agency and located in sequence along the 38 km of the Altomontana Path, which can be reached in an hour-and-a-half’s walk from Piano Vetore. It is located at 1878 metres and is always open so that it can be used by excursionists, day and night. There is a water tank supply but no toilet facilities. It can only be reached by bicycle or on foot.