701 / Pista Altomontana (Sentiero Italia)
The 34.400-km route develops almost entirely along a ring-shaped wide road covering about 60% of the volcano’s perimeter, located at an altitude between a minimum of 1,435 m on the north side to a maximum of 1,917 on the west side. The only exception is a short pass stretching through a narrow lava path resulting from the 1981 eruption, which spilled onto the north flank threatening the town of Randazzo.
The ring it outlines is not a closed one, due to the chasm of the Valle del Bove, not impossible though difficult to cross.
Though curved in shape, the length and conformation of the Pista Altomontana make it a sort of backbone of the Etna trail network, as it is accessible from almost all the villages surrounding Etna through some paths featuring a roughly radial track. Subsequently, it is possible to proceed towards the summit areas from some of its junctions, following other paths through large radial lines.
The Pista Altomontana could be defined as the “hub” of the Etna trails, as it allows reaching the medium altitudes of the Volcano from one side and descend from another one.
It also allows crossing and enjoying almost all the landscapes that Mount Etna can offer, ranging from different types of tall trees forests and- in particular – pine woods with larch pine and beech woods, to harsh lava flows characterised by very diverse shapes and appearance. The Pista Altomontana roughly marks the border between the second and third of the three circular belts into which the ancient authors used to divide Etna, that is, the downstream wooded belt and the upstream volcanic desert belt.
Finally, it allows admiring an hourly changing panorama overlooking the two underlying valleys of the Simeto and Alcantara rivers, the mountainous complexes of Nebrodi and Peloritani and the villages scattered across them. Along it, or at short distance, there are a dozen small buildings, generally owned by the former State Forestry Company, some of which are available as emergency shelter or a basic overnight stay for adequately equipped hikers.
The two ends of the route can be both reached by private motor vehicles and constitute Hiking Base Points.