All Around Etna, Pillar of Heaven

January 5, 2012

Well, Mount Etna–Pillar of Heaven, as the Greeks called her–is spewing her ash again as I write this. First blast of 2012. Clouds of smoke are visible all the way down here.

We toured around her just last week. Small puffs of smoke, like breaths on a cold day, blew from her crater into the gray-blue sky. She looked breathtakingly serene then, but there’s always more than meets the eye in Sicily.

Vulcan, god of fire, was tink-tinking away in her burning bowels.

Mount Etna in December, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

How odd to live cheek-by-jowl with such a force of nature.

Stone homes–still inhabited–nestle against the black scabs of lava that are etched like witch’s fingers down her green shoulders. Some homes, like the one below, are just a distant memory.

Ruined House in Lava Field on Mount Etna, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Lava fields outside Randazzo

Randazzo, closest to the summit, is a dark town on the north slope built entirely of lava stone.

Church in Randazzo, Sicily, a town near Etna, copyright Jann Huizenga

Church of Santa Maria in Randazzo

Scene in Randazzo, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Center of Randazzo

In spite of the danger, Sicilians feel an intense affection for Etna, identifying deeply with her volatile nature.

The boys in Randazzo deck themselves out in black–to match their surroundings I presume–and behave just like Etna, puffing great rings of smoke into the sky.

Boys in Randazzo, Sicly, copyright Jann Huizenga

Scene in Randazzo

Does your life lack excitement?

Here’s a house for you. It’s just under Etna, and for sale!

House for sale under Etna, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga



Tips for tourists: Wine tours and trekking are favorite past-times around Etna. The north face of Etna is a gorgeous place to drive around–full of vineyards, baronial manors, and mountain panoramas, but when you get to down-at-the-heels Bronte (home of the famous pistachio nut), the roads become trashy–especially shocking to see in the presence of this great natural wonder.

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