"I had heard about the stupendous iridescence of the aurora upon the Ionian Sea, when you contemplate it from Etna's summit...The earthly and marine vastness revealed to our sight stretched as far as Africa, clearly visible, and Greece, as far as you could have guessed. It was one of the supreme moments of my life. Nothing was missing, not the golden fringe of a cloud, nor the eagles..."
Adapted from "Adriano's Memories", Marguerite Yourcenar.
It is a very easy path, suitable to everyone for a relaxing walk among ancient lava flows and pine woods. The common name of these trees is in fact “Zappini”, and the mount that is covered by them is named “Monte degli Zappini”.
It has been the first nature trail officially created by Etna Park. The original trail was interrupted by the 2002 lava flow. Now there is a variation that unfortunately is not signalled on the Etna Park web site, so we had to walk the path a few times before we finally found the right trail. You can find the beginning of the path driving on the SP 92 from Nicolosi towards Rifugio Sapienza. A few kilometres before the refuge follow the left the sign for the astronomical observatory. You will soon find the entrance to the path on the right, there is also a big stone on which it is written “Parco dell’Etna”.
Given the simplicity of the trail, we decided to bring with us the youngest of our EtnaTrackers: only 18 months, but ready for the first trails! While we enter the path, we notice ancient lava flows, that are placed one upon another. In this place flowed the 1983 lava flow. That time there was the first attempt to deviate the lava flow, by using enormous rocks. At the end of the trail it is possible to see the quarry from which the stones were extracted.
Soon after the entrance you notice an italian flag: this is one of the 3 flags donated by Ciampi President and placed on Monte Bianco, Gran Sasso and Etna, ideally joining the 3 highest mountains of the north, the centre and the south of Italy. We keep on walking on this trail for a few metres, until we find an asphalted street. We walk trough it for a short while until we find, on the left, the first observation point (O.P.) From which it is possible to see, on the north, Monte Nero degli Zappini. The second O.P. makes you notice the ancient lava flows, placed one upon another, while the third O.P. is a "hornitos": structures created by the gas that comes out from the underlying flow.
We keep on going along the path until we see a fork. We go on the right (if you go on the left, towards the building on the background, you go back to the beginning of the path) and we see the forth O.P., a fossilized lava-coloured tree trunk. Here, on the right, you can catch a glimpse of the old track that has been cut by a lava flow. We go on the left, down the slope, towards the potting and the sheep-pen.
We follow the path until we meet another fork, which is the rejoining with the old track. From here on, on every fork you encounter, you always have to go on the LEFT. We go through a wood, until we find another fork. In this part of the wood there is the entrance to "Nuova Gussonea" Botanic Garden (it is possible to go visit it, but not on Sundays and public holidays) and a variant of the path that leads to a forest nursery inside a "roverella" oak wood, a species of oak that you can find on Etna. You can decide to go through it and go back to the starting point using an asphalted road that goes to the “ Grande Albergo dell'Etna”, lengthening your walk of 2-3 kilometres. In our case we go straight on until the last fork of the path, that leads you nearby the quarries from which were extracted the rocks to deviate the 1983 lava flow.
We decide to give a last lookto the craters, already colonized by a few trees, and to the lava flows, before we get back to the beginning of the path.