Meet your driver at the established place. Your journey begins with a highway drive to the town of Giarre and continues up along the southern slopes of the volcano.
You will pass through the small village of Santa Venerina, renowned for the wines and distillates that are produced there and among which is the famous “Fuoco dell’Etna”, whose alcohol content almost reaches 70% abv.
Along the way, you might notice the cracks caused by a violent eruption in October 1992, which also caused a major earthquake. You will pass by the façade of the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore di Gesù, one of the most important in the area. Next is the village of Zafferana Etnea, renowned for the many shops manufacturing and selling honey. It will be possible to stop for a free taste of local products (olive oil, olives, honey etc.)
Your next stop will be at the famous hardened lava flow originated by the 1992 eruption, when the lava flow stopped only 700 metres off the village centre, on 27th May 1992. That eruption, which began on 14th December 1991 and ended on 30th March 1993, was the longest eruption that has ever been documented.
Local people believe that the eruption miraculously stopped after they took out the statue of the Madonna della Provvidenza and carried it toward (and against) the lava flow that threatened to bury the villages. The statue can still be seen right where the lava flow stopped.
Your driver will take you further up the Etna slopes, driving by other flows of hardened lava and extinguished craters and will stop at the Rifugio Sapienza, on the southern side of the mountain, at the height of 1910 metres a.s.l.
Once there, you will be able to take a walk around the Silvestri Craters, which originated in 1892. Enjoy some free time to have a drink or a coffee or browse the souvenir shops where you can find all sorts of handcrafted lava souvenirs. Weather permitting, you will have the possibility to buy tickets for the cable car ascent (tickets not included) even up to the summit craters and enjoy an unforgettable experience. We will then drive along the southeastern coast of Sicily to reach Catania, whose old town you can explore on foot.
Marvel at the Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Agatha and facing the square with the fountain of the elephant (called by the locals “u Liotru”), the symbol of the town since as early as 1239.
The residents still believe that the statue of the elephant has the power to protect the city by keeping the threats of Etna eruptions at bay. The main street of Catania, via Etnea, is the best place to do some good shopping, with plenty of shops interspersed with Baroque buildings and monuments. Before we leave the city, we will drive by the Castello Ursino, built in the 13th century at the behest of Frederick II and hosting today the Civic Museum of Catania. You will also enjoy views of the Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena, ranking second in extension among the Benedictine monasteries of Europe (after the Convent of Mafra, in Portugal). On 15th August, a royal decree declared this monastery part of Italian national heritage. In 2002, the monument was listed as UNESCO Heritage Site, considered a jewel of Sicilian late Baroque. Today, this prestigious building belongs the University of Catania and hosts the School of Humanities.