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There is a place on Etna where everything works at perfection. The Museum of Etna Rural Life has been built. Tourists are taken along a guided path that shows the different ways by which the Mountain allowed the small towns to survive in the past years. The tour starts from an old pine-wood, where local elderly show how resin used to be extracted from the trees and the different uses of this substance. Sitting on a bench, a carpenter is working a couple of local wooden pieces with ancient tools, creating crafts that can be bought by tourists straight from him.

The notch on the snow at Pietracannone path

The most impressive point for visitors is the ancient "notch of the snow" (literally "tacca della neve"). This is a rectangular hollow where snow is kept during the winter, carefully covered during the summer and then extracted in blocks. The snow is brought downhill with carts (now electric carts, but in the past they where pulled by mules). The snow blocks were used as a refrigerant before fridges became widespread and the best pastry-cooks used the blocks to make granita! They would make a hole in the snow block, insert a spinning holder inside, then they would put inside the ingredients and mix until the desired consistency was obtained. This technique is today showed to tourists in the refuge downhill from the pine-wood. In the refuge the old local women serve to visitors the granitas, still prepared like 80 years ago. It is also possible to buy the typical products of this area of the volcano: honey, preserves, fresh fruit and wine, all produced locally in small quantities.

Now we have to wake up. What we talked about so far obviously does not exist on Etna. It exists in Stockholm (the Skansen), in Estonia, it surely exists in many other places in the world and could surely exist also on Etna. Instead there is a devastated refuge, a notch of the snow completely covered by vegetation, a path which can be barely be walked through. All this can be found in the path of Pietracannone Houses Trail ("Sentiero delle Case di Pietracannone"), and it is in such bad conditions to have deserved an article on one of the biggest Italian national newspapers. Can we only blame the local councils because they do nothing to value what we have? But what are we doing about it, in our own small way?

Stone Forest at Piano Provenzana

It is not enough to say: “I love Etna because it is the first thing I look at in the morning”. We should do more than picking the chestnuts in autumn or throwing snow balls at each other in the winter. 


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