The East Etna side where the south east crater is located, is the side with the most varied landscapes and climate. The south east crater is also the most active one, in constant change since it began its activity in 1971.
We start our tour from the sea in Riposto, a town so named due to the great quantity of wine barrels once stored there. Etna wine barrels were stored (riposte) in huge numbers at the port before getting shipped.
Today this port is also called Porto dell Etna, being right at the bottom of the volcano, in the middle of the green coast called the Riviera dei limoni, well known for the great production of lemons that were the main source of sustenance for the whole area in the last century.
Right above there is Giarre, so called for the production of terracotta jars (giare) in the past centuries. We so leave the riviera dei limoni to get close to Santa Venerina, a small town famous for producing typical local liqueurs such as limoncello, mandarinetto and “Fuoco dell’Etna”, a typical Etna speciality.
This small town is also sadly famous for the 29th October 2002 earthquake which occurred during the so known perfect eruption that started the 27th October 2002 that got its name from Santa Venerina. Heading towards the Zafferana Etna area, we get deeper and deeper inside typical Etna wine vineyards: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio,Carricante, Catarratto and Minella.
Before arriving 700 mt high, we already find a very special place, the only wood existing in the protected area of Parco dell’Etna at this altitude. That is the bosco di Milo, an incredibly green wood thanks to its location on the centre of the east side of Etna.
We go through the beautiful small town of Milo, the highest town on this side, with its church placed at the centre at 720 mt above sea level. Later on we also meet the small village Fornazzo at 824 my above the sea. This village is the door to the natural protected area of Parco dell’Etna.
Our journey continues towards the west side, through the only road in the whole Etna’s north east area. This road has a picturesque name Mareneve, and leads to the skiing station of Piano Provenzana. It is a road that climbs the volcano’s slopes, following and crossing old shepherd and coal paths, leads us after more or less 5 km, to the Pietracannone houses at 1150 mt above the sea . Here we get into the real off-road toward the Valle del Bove.
We pass by Pietra Cannone shelter, and we get into the chestnut woods, along an old shepherd path meeting also cherry trees and apple Pumacola trees, until we cross an ancient lava flow from 1979. Following upwards this lava flow through a steep path, we get to see the Valle del Bove. We take an even smaller path through the wild vegetation towards Monte Fontane.
At the top of the mountain, we meet one of the most famous trees on the volcano; the Monte Fontane Turkey Oak , the oldest oak tree of the family of Quercus Cerri being around 400 years old… Suddenly we get out the vegetation from the south side of Monte Fontane top, and we found ourselves in front of a huge semicircular shaped flat land: that is the Valle del Bove. Like from a stage we have the opportunity to enjoy a spectacular nature show,a 35 km2 valley that deeply sculpts the entire east side of the volcano.
We can admire a huge land full of lava flows that look like stone tongues, witnessing how the activity of the volcano filled up this vast area in just 50 years.
From that epic 5 th of April 1971, when the first fractures appeared developing the eruptive activity that created the Cratere di Sud Est, one after the other the eruptions poured onto the Valle del Bove swallowing the entire vegetation of the valley. Observing the landscape, we can easily recognise the structure that existed before Etna. Collapsing 8000 years ago, generating the Valle del Bove.