So tomorrow we start a new month travelling back on to the mainland of Italy after 2½ months on the island. We have had our good moments along with the bad ones. Many of the highlights have included the amazing Greek ruins at Selinunte, the amazing archaeology in Marsala, the Greek Temple at Segesta, the medieval town of Cefalù, the Villa Romana in the Centre of Sicily and finally Mount Etna, majestic and crowned with snow, grumbling loudly as we just stood and stared.
So, for a final farewell, we decided a second visit to Etna was called for. The day, after the wind and rain from the past few days, dawned with clear skies and quieter seas.
After a leisurely breakfast, we set of for the northern slopes of Etna. Once again we followed the coast road southwards turning inland towards a cloud draped Etna at a small town called Fiumefreddo di Sicilia, up through Piedimonte Etneo and Linguaglossa. Here we turned right and heading upwards into the trees and cloud. A little disappointed, we continued upwards, through the tree filled valleys, finally spotting the remains of a snowdrift at the side of the road. The snow at the side of the road, was soon deep, where the ploughs had thrown the last few days accumulations of fresh snow. Suddenly we emerged from the trees on to a lava flow, sparsely littered with green, fresh Christmas trees in their first and second years of growth. Their bright green needles contrasted magnificently against the black of the pumice. We turned right up towards the car parks kept clean and free of snow for the tourists.
Etna was magnificent, coughing and belching clouds of smoke with the deep booms of molten and cooling rocks cracking and exploding. The clouds, which we had left behind, shone invitingly in the midday sun. After a short stay, we drove back down towards the main road, stopping where a snow covered track with one set of tyre marks on it, led away from the road. I stopped and turned the car around, so that we were facing down hill. I then reversed up the gentle slope, to allow for easy extraction! We stopped and took a couple of photos, then spent the next 30 minutes digging ourselves out
Once free and back on solid ground again, we continued around the eastern flank of the volcano, turning right again up to Rifugio Citelli. Here we stopped and were busy filming the mountain when we noticed that it was raining, but there were no clouds. I then noticed that Etna was showering us with a fine dusting of volcanic ash, up to 1mm across. Now, that's something to tick off the to do list!
We drove down the mountain and back to the campsite, where we fuelled up and shopped, ready for our trip tomorrow.