704 / Piano Vetore – Piano dell’Acqua
This 15-km-long hiking trail is part of the “Sentiero Italia” surrounding Etna on the southern side. The need to ensure its continuity made it necessary to allow it to cross some segments of the paved S.P. 92 road.
The route formally begins at Piano Vetore, where it joins hiking trail no. 701 and, through S.P. 92, proceeds slightly uphill towards the area constituting the core of the “Etna South” ski resort, where the Sapienza Lodge, the Etna cableway station and various other buildings are located. Then, the trail continues on the paved road between the Higher and Lower Silvestri Mounts, to subsequently proceed downhill towards Zafferana for slightly less than one kilometre, until it gets wider (q. 1,832 m) and meets a crossroads, from which an unpaved small road closed by a bar departs. Once past it, the trail climbs towards the edge of Valle del Bove and reaches it at the “Lapide Malerba” (2,040 m a.s.l.), a stone placed in memory of a hiker here fallen to his death. Here the descent begins and the trail unfolds for a few kilometres until M. Zoccolaro or its forepart M. Pomiciaro.
Where possible, this segment proceeds along the edge of the Serra del Salifizio and then facing Valle del Bove, thus allowing a broad view, while departing to where the vegetation, generally consisting of Etna’s broom, grows so thick that it must be bypassed in order to get past it. About halfway through the segment between the Malerba Stone and M. Zoccolaro, hikers first meet the upper entrance to the Canalone dei Faggi and then the other one (1,751 m) leading out of Valle del Bove to Acqua Rocca degli Zappini. The Eastbound hiking trail no. 704, after merging with a 950-meters section marked as Sentiero Natura, meets a paved road called “Cassone – M. Pomiciaro” departing from S.P. 92.
The route then unfolds down towards Zafferana by touching the hairpin turns of the road three more times, until it takes an ancient but suggestive path featuring rough steps (and hence called “la Scalazza”, i.e., the “Bad Staircase”). Its base is located along the entrance of Valle di S. Giacomo, precious for the water it supplies to the underlying village.
From this area, not surprisingly called “Piano dell’Acqua” (i.e., “Water Plain”), and through 380 m of paved road, it is possible to reach the village of Ballo, where Hiking Trail no. 704 formally ends and merges Hiking Trail no. 724.
However, the centre of Zafferana can be reached from Ballo for an overnight stay.