The fascinating volcano Etna
A cycling tour in Sicily, the biggest and most enchanting island of the Mediterranean, means exploring a sea-land rich in traditions, the taste of the excellent Sicilian cuisine, white beaches with deep blue colour as a background, places rich in history and archeologic paths that witness thousands of years of history and dominations. This journey tells you about the fascinating volcano that made the history of Sicily. Etna is the biggest and most active volcano in Europe. It is covered with varied vegetation starting at sea level with citrus groves, olive groves and pistachios to oaks, chestnuts and pines and to finish with, above 2200, with shrubby vegetation. You cycle in the shade of the Etna, within natural parks (Etna, Alcantara, and Natural reserve Forre Laviche del Simeto).
There is a very evocative atmosphere as you cycle through authentic and friendly villages like the medieval town Randazzo once known as the town of hundred churches. Very suggestive is the Via degli Archi. Certainly, a highlight of this tour is Taormina, the pearl of the Ionian Sea with its ancient Greek theatre, which offers a stunning panorama of the sea and the surrounding hills. Not less interesting are Castiglione di Sicilia and the baroque city of Acireale, famous for its Carnival.
It is also a journey that flatters your palate. The Sicilian kitchen is rich and varied with local delicacies such as arancini, the caponata, pasta con le sarde, and naturally sweets dessert and cakes like cannoli and cassata made of pistachio, the ricotta cheese, and dried fruit.
The daily program of the 8-day tour
Arrival at your hotel in Nicolosi. In the late afternoon, you will receive bikes and have a briefing with a local representative. Nicolosi is a little village situated at the foot of Etna, 700m. of altitude. Nicolosi boasts important monuments like a Benedictine monastery dating back to the 12th century, S.Nicolò l’Arena.
Today, a nice cycling around the Etna. It is volcanic complex originated in the quaternary and is the highest active volcano in the Eurasian Plaque. Its frequent eruptions throughout history have changed, sometimes even deeply, the surrounding landscape, coming several times to threaten the populations that have settled around it over the millennia. The great writer Leonardo Sciascia talked about Etna with the following words: “he is like a huge house cat who quietly roars and sometimes wakes up, yawns, with lazy sluggish stretching and, with a distracted paw, now covers a valley, now another, erasing villages, vineyards and gardens”.
The sporty cyclist among us can go up by bike or there is an alternative to go up by local bus. You reach ‘Rifugio Sapienza’ (www.rifugiosapienza.com ; buses accept bikes) and from here individual tours to visit the Etna volcano starts. Special buses leave for visiting the top of the volcano with guides. Upon arrival at Rifugio Sapienza you can buy tickets for this excursion. Back to Nicolosi by bike and overnight.
If the weather is not good, you can take a local bus to Catania and visit this beautiful city situated at the foot of the Etna.
Overnight with breakfast in Nicolosi
Distance: 20 km /12,4 mi
Ascent & Descent: + 1209m – 1207m
Today the itinerary passes through Adrano, situated on the border of the natural park of the Etna. You have time to visit the historic centre and the Norman castle (11th century) of Adrano. You cross Ponte dei Saraceni, a stone bridge dating back to the 9th century on river Simeto and the natural reserve ‘Forre laviche del Simeto’, a long succession of waterfalls, rapids, lakes, and gorges that the river Simeto created by flowing between the basaltic lavas of an ancient Etna melt. Your overnight is in Bronte, the city of pistachio.
Overnight with breakfast in Bronte
Distance: 49 km /30 mi
Ascent & Descent: + 497m – 662m
You cycle to Maniace to visit the Castle of Orazio Nelson and the Norman abbey of S.Maria di Maniace (12th century). In the next days, you will cycle along the riviera of Lemons, which extends from Acireale and passes through Aci Catena up to Aci Castello. In the past, this area was known for its warm waters and the legend of God River Acis and nymph Galatea (for this, many of these places are called “Aci”. This area, between the Ionian Sea and the Etna, is a plateau created by lava and magma that descends gently to the fertile plains of Catania, through numerous citrus plantations: we recommend to try the delicious local limoncello.
Your accommodation for the night is in Randazzo, a small medieval town on the slopes of Etna, with an interesting historic centre. It is worth visiting the archeologic museum and the civic museum of natural science.
Overnight with breakfast in Randazzo
Distance: 30 km /18,6 mi or 36 km /22,3 mi
Ascent & Descent: + 481m – 244m or + 667m – 874m
Today an easy downhill ride is waiting for you. You leave Randazzo cycling along the ‘strada del Vino‘ (a wine route) and of course, you will have the opportunity to taste some of the excellent wines from the vineyards on the sunny slopes of Etna and to try some local specialties at a winery. After this, you will visit the impressive gorges of Alcantara, which in some places reach a depth of 25m. The widest parts of the gorge are only 4-5m wide, narrowing to 2m at some points. The gorges mark the course of the Alcantara river over the years. Your overnight stay is in the town of Giardini Naxos, site of the first Greek colony on Sicily, on the Ionian coast, where you might enjoy a regenerating bath in its splendid blue waters.
Overnight with breakfast in Giardini Naxos
Distance: 44 km /27,3 mi
Ascent & Descent: + 251m – 1005m
This morning you have the opportunity to visit the excavations of ancient Naxos. This large archaeological area has an interesting museum. After your visit, you cycle to Taormina to discover its natural and historical beauties. Anyone who visits Taormina, must certainly not forget to the highest part of town to visit the Greek theater of Hellenistic origin, but nowadays with a totally Roman aspect. It is the most important monument of the city, not only from a historical point of view but also geographically, given the beauty and the extraordinary nature of its position, from which you can enjoy an incomparable view. The theater is still used today for theatrical and musical performances, thanks to its excellent acoustics. Other places of interest in the medieval center are the Corvaja Palace, built on the ancient Roman Forum, the Saracen Castle, the Naumachia, the Cathedral dedicated to San Nicola From the Gallery you have a splendid view of Mount Etna, the Bay of Naxos and the Roman Theater.
Of course, you can also spend the day on the beach of Isola Bella. At the end of the day, you return to Giardini Naxos.
Overnight with breakfast in Giardini Naxos
Distance: 20 km /12,4 mi
Ascent & Descent: + 523m – 523m
A last an easy ride along the Ionian coast, also known as “riviera of lemons” will take you, after a short climb to Acireale, whose baroque centre has earned world fame. Amongst the churches, worthwhile visiting is the one of San Sebastiano with its ten statues of old testament figures and the frescoes of the painter Paolo Vasta. But before reaching the town you will pass the natural reserve of Timpa with several predatory birds nest, and undisturbed dense vegetation which grows luxuriant thanks to the springs that pour into the Ionian Sea. Overnight stay in Acitrezza
Overnight with breakfast in Acitrezza
Distance: 37 km /23 mi
Ascent & Descent: + 386m – 378m
After breakfast ends your tour around the volcano Etna
Medium till difficult. Cycling in a hilly landscape. Flat sections are alternating with some challenging climbs. A cycle experience is needed and good physical condition. Cycling on asphalted and dirt roads.
Average daily distances:
between 20 km / 12,4 mi and 50 km / 31 mi.
Total km: 205 km /127,4 miles
Daily from 06 March until 06 November
1 or more people.
START / FINISH:
Nicolosi / Acitrezza