• Layer your clothes (think California). It might get blisteringly hot in the day, but when the sun goes behind a cloud, a tree or a hill, it can get cool. Take something lightweight to throw in your back pack. Getting sick in Sicily isn’t for the weak of heart. Trust me. I know.
• Take plenty of batteries and chargers. You will need GPS, even when it takes you the wrong way up a goat trail, and if you lose power, you go from predator to prey in a flash.
Let’s talk about food. On Etna your will find:
A plethora of pork and other red meat products – beef, veal, lamb.
A regular occurrence of fresh fruits and vegetables. Tuscany, it ain’t. Thankfully.
A dearth of seafood. Ditto for chicken. Live with it.
If you are gluten or lactose intolerant or deathly allergic to eggs – you might be challenged. Not impossible, but you will have to be on your toes. And this isn’t California, where those kinds of conditions are catered to. You might get an upraised eyebrow, but not much sympathy. Hey, imaging being a vegetarian in Sicily in 1977 – I know – it wasn’t pretty.
If you like cheese you will be in heaven.
Accomodations.Find someplace where you can base yourself out of. Preferably with plenty of parking. And maybe someplace that is quiet but not too remote. We recently stayed outside of Randazzo at the Feudo Vagliasindi – it was all that and very affordable – friendly too.
Try and plan one or two appointments a day. Three is pushing it. If the wineries are nearby, that’s the best strategy. Also be flexible regarding changes. Things happen. Pipes burst. Fermentations stick. Sicily has a lot going on – be of good cheer. And roll with it.
The wine community is forming. While Etna was a powerhouse in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those glory days are gone. Etna is in reinvention. You are witnessing the re-birth. It’s really exciting. And there are people from all over the world who have come to Etna to make wine. They know wine. They hang with their Burgundian and Piedmontese and New California friends. It’s like one big giant Instagram reunion.
That’s all I’ve got this round. You won’t “get” Etna in one trip. Or six. But I do find it fascinating, like Piedmont or the Douro or other places, where people have made great sacrifices to live in a rugged, unforgiving land so that they can make wine that makes people happy. I don’t know if Etna will be another Burgundy or Piedmont (I hope not) but it’s a really beautiful, nature-filled area, far from the cities and the noise and the distractions of modern life that we find ourselves wrapped up in.
The wines are delicious, the food is beyond baroque and there is a warm and friendly community waiting to show you what a life with passion in wine is all about.
written and photographed (on Mt. Etna)by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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