Mt. Etna & Nearby
We got an early start and took the small train that circles around most of Mt. Etna—the CircumEtnea (FCE). It was only one train car that could hold about 30 people and stopped in many of the small towns along the way. Besides us tourists (Bob, me and 2 young Germans), the train services the local high school youth as well as others who travel between the towns.
If you have the time to take this ride (three hours—each way), we recommend it. It’s interesting to see the changes in the land as you travel from southwest to northeast of the mountain. When you reach the final stop in the town of Giarre-Riposto, you can take the regular train or a bus back to Catania and return home much faster.
The Lonely Planet guide to Sicily suggested a stop in the town of Randazzo, so we got off the train and explored the town a bit. It’s a pleasant hill town with several appealing restaurants in the old town center. We were limited by the train schedule, but we made a good decision in choosing Antichi Sapori near the main church. It had both outdoor and indoor seating and authentic Sicilian food. We were there on a weekday, so it wasn’t busy, but we had great service and excellent food. We hope to return there again when we have more time to savor a lunch.
Although our morning started out overcast, we picked a perfect day to see Mt. Etna. The sun came out and the skies cleared for fantastic views of the snowy peak. We didn’t have the right clothes for a hike, so we had to enjoy the views from a distance. We saw a few serious hikers and some Austrian guys with their skis. So, even in March, Etna has plenty of visitors. I think it would be a great spot to hike in the fall when the snow is melted and it’s not too hot.
The TI (tourist information spot) in Catania has a good collection of brochures on all of the hikes and other activities for this area. There are also plenty of touring companies that can provide fun ways to explore the mountain. We hope to return in a few weeks when we have the car that we’re renting soon. The train trip is a good way to view the area, but it’s not as convenient as a car. Meanwhile, here’s what it looked like.