731 / Sentiero delle Ginestre Tappa 1
From the centre of Nicolosi, it is possible to reach the headquarters of the Etna Park. These are worth a visit, as they are located in an ancient monastery. The trail then goes up secondary roads and cart roads to Monte Arso, an impressive extinct volcanic cone that dominates the entire southern slope. Then it crosses partially built-up areas until it reaches the nice rural village of Tarderia, a hamlet of Pedara. Meanwhile, the track has entered the territory of Trecastagni and now touches Casa della Capinera, which was recently renovated to create a Park’s reception centre featuring a restaurant and an exhibition area. A detour allows visiting Monte Ilice, a magnificent lateral crater dating back to the year 1000. The last part of the stage descends to the centre of Zafferana Etnea through small roads and paths in the areas where the wood has retaken over ancient cultivated lands.
After leaving the town, which offers multiple possibilities for overnight stays, the track immediately climbs up on a paved road asphalted to Contrada Dagalone. Hence, a mule track begins that offers clear evidence of the activities that once characterised the medium slopes of the volcano, when lava fields were colonised to plant vineyards up to a thousand metres above sea level. Proceeding along the mule track, the trail meets a detour, which, in about ten minutes, allows hikers to observe one of the most fascinating natural monuments of Etna: the Ilice di Carrinu, an over 700-year-old holm oak with a vigorous crown that overlooks a now ruined house. Returning to the mule track, after getting past the pleasant town of Piano Bello and walking along the Valle del Bove it is possible to enjoy beautiful views of the summit area. At the height of Monte Fontane, there is a small road that in a short time leads to the Casolare di Pietracannone and then – after a short section of provincial road – to the Magazzeni area. Here are several accommodation facilities located in the middle of the hazel groves.
The route then passes through the craters of 1928. These generated the impetuous eruption that led to the destruction of the town of Mascali. The track then encounters a number of votive altars that remember the faith of those who, on that occasion, had their lands spared from the fury of the volcano. Those adequately equipped with a pocket lamp may also enter the eruptive fissure. Further on, the trail enters the State Forestry Property in an area mainly characterised by a vast Turkey oak wood. Entering the territory of Piedimonte Etneo, the trail continues on a moderate ascent up to Monte Crisimo and its panoramic forest that deserves a short stop. To finish the 3rd stage, it is possible to easily cross the lava fields until the trail meets the tall centuries-old Ragabo pine tree woods, where are several buildings available for overnight stay. In the final part of the day, the Sentiero delle Ginestre uses a part of the ancient paved road used to transport timber.
From the almost 1,500 m of altitude of the Ragabo pinewood, the trail descends down to Linguaglossa (550 m) on dirt roads that initially touches M. Corruccio (the cave of the same name is a must-see) and then crosses a large area once cultivated and today fully taken over again by wild vegetation. In some sections there is also an old transhumance “trazzera” used by shepherds to transfer the flocks at the end of each season. Once down to the so-called “Quota Mille road”, hikers enter the lava field of 1923, which covered a large cultivated area, to walk out in the open until the track meets the S.S. 120 road near a small, disused station of the Circumetnea Railway. Hence, it turns to reach Linguaglossa.