Height + Wind = Awesome

February 18, 2015 / Places
Mount Etna, Sicily

Awesome! …a word that has become trivialized from overuse.

Yet an enthusiast of national parks expects a certain amount of “awesome.” Each park ought to possess its own special features. When it isn’t on fire, Mount Etna boasts “height and wind.”

Height: Destination UP! Rifugio Sapienza’s cable way, the funivia, provides a pleasant ride for the first leg of the journey. Then makeshift byways, flattened around hills of black-brown ash and rock, lead even further up!

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Your teenage nephew, clad in flip flops, urges your group to walk the remainder of the way. Walk? Saner heads eye the Unimog vehicles – buses on monster-truck-sized wheels – and the route ahead. Teenage nephew, overruled!

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Ascending by Unimog, a wide-open landscape unfolds, concluding at a half-mile trail. The broad vista is outlined by the distant hazy sea. Not a single tree or shrub or even a blade of grass is in sight! Other Unimogs chug below, impossibly far off.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Wind: The trail features some volcano-warmed vents; fun to lean over! But the wind! Forceful and commanding, one feels diminished in it. A startling gust whisks your nine-year-old’s red cap off, up, and down the mountainside: gone, swallowed into the ashy slope.

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Clinging together on a post, as if for neighborly support, is a cluster of ladybugs. Ladybugs, at 8,200 feet elevation?

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

by Maryanne Maggio Hanisch

Maryanne is a teacher, artist, and Italian Notebook enthusiast who lives in New Jersey.

10 Responses to “Height + Wind = Awesome”

  1. I traveled to Sicily in 2010 and took the climb to Mt Etna. What an exhilerating experience, I must say. I have a piece of lava on my windowsill that I look at every day and remember what a thrill it was. Some spots as you say you could feel the warmth under you feet, and from a distance people looked like ants slowly walking along the ropes. I was so glad I did the tour, I will never forget it.

    Reply
    • Maryanne Maggio Hanisch

      “Exhilarating” is the perfect word for it! The enormity of the place is so difficult to describe. We were glad that we went, too!

      Reply
  2. William Strangio

    In a way the mountain is so large its hard to have an appreciation of its size.
    If a person is on a short trip to Sicily it would be better to look at it from Taormina or Enna. Another good view can be seen from a plane that is going to land at Catania. Just the logistics of getting up the mountain and then back
    uses up a good portion of a day. So the question is – what is the best way to spend your time? That of course is every tourist’s choice!!

    Reply
    • Maryanne Maggio Hanisch

      Yes, exactly. We were on our way to Taormina when we stopped at Rifugio Sapienza. The size and scope of the area around Etna brought back memories of cruising in Alaska, believe it or not! Although the climate and environment couldn’t be more different, I remember seeing ice floes with what I thought were grit and rocks on them, only to be told by the commentary over the PA that those were seals! I certainly recommend the trip we made up Mt. Etna – very memorable.

      Reply
  3. Gian Banchero

    Several years back my nephew and I visited the village at the top of the volcano where at a store I bought some good Sicilian liquors and several operatic CDs, afterwards we looked down into the caldera where we witnessed a scene that seemed right out of ancient mythology, we saw the magic of swirling vapor rising up and also lava the color of red neon I’m yet to see duplicated. After a couple of small but impressive earthquakes we decided to descend to safer territory in haste, ah, what a wonderful memory.

    Reply
    • Maryanne Maggio Hanisch

      Wow, you REALLY had the full “sensaround” experience! I’m glad you shared it!

      Reply
  4. The day I went up Etna it was foggy and began to snow, so I appreciate these pictures of views I didn’t see. Still well worth doing though, it’s crazy big.

    Reply

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