Escape to Etna

Sarah O. Sicily, Italy


April 3, 2014

Last week I was treated like a princess. It was by far the most fun I have had on Sicily. We had a school field trip for volcanology, which started on Thursday morning where we took a bus to Catania. There we went to the center for Geological Studies in Sicily. We met a man who showed us the different instruments that study movement and activity of volcanoes, mainly for Etna. Then the trip continued on Sunday. We went to hike the volcano, Mount Etna. This mountain looms over Sicily and can be seen all the way from Siracusa on a clear day. We were finally able to explore its mystery up close on this field trip. Although we were not able to hike all the way up Etna, as it is still an active volcano, we were able to see it up close by hiking a scoria cone next to the volcanic edifice. The landscape was so beautiful. I have been missing nature so much while being here. In Virginia I am used to forests of greenery on every day walks and mountain views on regular drives. At Etna the fauna was so striking it resembled Lord of the Rings, or some kind of mythical land. The only trees that grew on the mountain in the black, lava sand were birch trees and pine trees. Birch trees have a very white bark that is interrupted by eyes outlined with dark lines. So these bright white trees contrasted the black sand so well it looked unreal. I wish I could have run around and camped there for a whole week.

Unfortunately, we did have to leave, but only to go to the Gambino Winery where we were treated like royalty. The wine was nice and there was as much as we wanted, but the real surprise was the unlimited, delicious food they served with the wine. My deadly sin is most definitely gluttony. Oh man! There was cheese, bread, lentils, chickpeas, every kind of meat and desserts! I could have stayed there all day too. Then we were taken on a small tour of where the wine is made. HUGE barrels, taller than me. The most surprising thing I learned was that most of a wine’s taste comes from the skin of the grape, not the inside and only about three bunches of grapes goes into one bottle. For some reason I expected it to be a lot more. The plants were beautiful at the winery as well. Big rose bushes lined the walk and there was a view of the mountains from the top of the winery. I definitely got my fill of nature that weekend.

Then we all clambered onto the bus to head back to good old Siracusa. One kid had a little too much wine and was our entertainment on the ride back. Making up stories and being silly. He may or may not have peed his pants on the bus ride. Oh well, we all had a good time. I am so thankful for nature, this trip and our lovely little school.