Piana degli Albanesi is embraced by a lake and surrounded by rugged mountains, which immortalizes this place as if it were one…
In this episode: the thousand lava shapes, pasta with sauce, lots and lots …of heat!
We are in Nicolosi, a small village in eastern Sicily about 700 meters above sea level, made of lava stone, pine trees, and extinct craters, the so-called children of Etna.
We have arrived during the Christmas period and this nativity is right in the central square where there is also this church and this road, the SP 92, that from here starts and arrives up to 2000 meters, exactly here, the Sapienza square, where, if you wish, a cableway takes you up to 3000 meters and then, if you like, you can take a walk of 300 meters and arrive here, at the top of the highest volcano in Europe: Etna.
From Nicolosi, the highest volcano in Europe, you can see it from every corner.
A mate (use the term she, for example she-mate, to highlight the feminine aspect of Etna), because Etna for Sicilians is a female, who has accompanied the life of this country over the millennia.
A friend, sometimes a little restless, that makes the houses shake and floods the roofs with ashes, but don’t worry, there is no danger.
Etna is far, far, far away …
Here we are in the village: the lava stone dominates the landscape of houses, roads, walls of fence.
Christmas is approaching, let’s see what they sell in that store
It’s full of Christmas things.
There is also some beautiful Sicilian ceramic.
Hey, check out this miniature 500!
This is Piazza Carmine and that’s the beautiful eighteenth-century Church of Carmel.
A fruitvendor : oranges and tangerines are very good around here.
Some of the houses have magnificent lava stone portals.
Splendid: “Excuse me Mrs. Nicolosian, can I ask you a question?”
She: “I’m so sorry but I’m in a hurry, the child is getting out of school.”
How many beautiful houses: low, elegant
What beautiful jasmine ready to bloom. Let’s see if there’s anyone here.
Nothing, Mrs. Gelsomina is out shopping.
Here is another alley in Nicolosi.
1886: beautiful portal still made of lava stone
What a beautiful village and what a beautiful sunny Sicilian day
This is Via Etnea, dedicated to the volcano.
Walking along the small streets of Nicolosi you can still see many lava stone ruins that once were palmenti, that is places where grapes were crushed to make wine.
With about 50,000 euros you can find one of about 100 square meters to renovate.
Sniffsniff … what a nice smell … let’s see.
Hey, so many delicious chocolate.
What a beautiful Christmas tree
He: “This is a chocolate Christmas tree but with Sicilian products with candied fruit, pistachios and hazelnuts from Etna”.
He: “This is Etna sweet with cocoa, figs, marzipan”.
He: “These are Etna’s lapilli made with almonds and pistachios from Etna. And they are called lapilli because when one eats them they make croccroc like when one walks on volcanic ash”
He: “And this is our cassata with pistachio marzipan.”
Mamma mia, what goodness!
Let’s go before we eat it all.
A fishvendor in the mountains! Will they be mountain fish?
Let’s see a minute squid, sea bass, bream, sole, cod and codfish
Splendid: “Good morning ma’am, tell me why one must come to Sicily on vacation?”
She: “Because here we have everything: from the mountains to the sea. You want to ski come to Mount Etna? Do you want to go swimming? You go to the sea”
Splendid: “And as food what do you recommend?”
Her: “Pasta with sardines.”
Splendid: “What is the worst defect of the Sicilians?”
Her: “They don’t have any. We are welcoming, we don’t have any flaws”
Another lady, let’s see what she says
Splendid: “Should one be afraid of Etna?”
She: “Absolutely not, it’s far away.”
Splendid: “Do you feel like a Sicilian from the mountains or the sea?”
She: “before from the sea, now from the mountains honestly.”
Let’s go into this little alley full of lava stone.
Let’s see if we can find someone
Splendid: “Hello ma’am, what are you preparing to eat today?”
She: “Pasta with fresh tomatoes made by me.”
Splendid: “Great Sicilian pasta … among my favorites”
Here’s a famous Sicilian moto ape full of fruit
Ok, let’s hurry up: we have an appointment at the senior citizens club
And Sicilian seniors are hilarious!
Ok, now we are hungry
We are guests of Miss Maria Grazia Torre.
As soon as we enter, right at the entrance, there is a collection of canes.
She: “Yes, they’re from all over the world. This is my aunt’s, Sicilian DOC.”
Here is the living room of this Sicilian house.
There is a nice working gramophone, a collection of nativity scenes from around the world.
She: “This is the Sicilian one. The most precious of all.”
She: “This is a very old Sicilian piece of furniture. We used to keep flour in it.
Here we are in the kitchen, good morning everybody.
There is, of course, a beautiful picture of Etna.
Outside the kitchen there is a classic Sicilian courtyard with two beautiful wash basin where they used to wash the laundry.
This house is all in lava stone of course.
We go up a staircase, also made of lava stone.
She: “This is my mother’s bedroom.”
Splendid: “And she was born here?”
She: “In this bed where I continue to sleep today.”
Maria Grazia tells us about her travels around the world.
She: “By traveling I was able to appreciate my land. We have gold. I think we are the richest land in the world in terms of culture and landscape. We are the cradle of civilization”
She: “I have a conflictual relationship with Etna: it is a friend to be respected; it often scares us but for us in Nicolosi it has been a source of work for everyone in the past and also today”.
Ok, now let’s eat!
Miss Maria Grazia has prepared fresh pasta with sauce.
There is ricotta cheese with pomegranate seeds and a typical scacciata with cauliflower, anchovies, spring onions and black olives.
There are the very tasty prickly pears and dried figs.
She: “In this dish, with my mother, we used to make tomato preserves which we then placed in the sun and when it dried, it was ready.
Thank you for everything Miss Maria Grazia, thank you beautiful Sicily for the hospitality of your people.
A nice Sicilian kiss.
Letizia Bonanno, Municipal Councillor
“Nicolosi is a lovely little village one step away from Etna and one step away from the sea. We have a mild climate, we have a beautiful park that are the Montirossi and other nature trails of the park of Etna. The town, all in lava stone, is full of restaurants and stores. And don’t miss to taste our mushrooms! We are waiting for you with the typical warmth of Sicily”
Now it’s time to walk and digest.
Those are the famous Tre Altarelli, symbol of Nicolosi.
Here, during the terrible eruption of 1766, the people of Nicolosi carried three saints in procession.
Miraculously the lava stopped and Nicolosi was saved!
And in honor of this miracle was erected this altar and there were painted the sacred images of St. Anthony Abbot, St. Anthony of Padua and in the middle the Virgin.
The same miraculous phenomenon was repeated in 1886 with the lava that deviated suddenly near the three altars!
Close to the town, right at the beginning of the SP92, the road that leads to 2000 meters of altitude, here is a magical place: Monti rossi.
They are one of about the 300 children of Etna, an extinct crater.
In ancient times the Montirossi were naked, the red color given by sulfur and iron.
For this reason they are called Monti rossi, literally red mountains.
Then a pine forest was planted and from naked they became dressed!
From this crater, a distant day in 1669, a tremendous eruption came up to Catania.
They have been immortalized by all the great travelers of the eighteenth-century Grand Tour: Goethe, Houel, de Maupassant … just to name a few.
We arrive up to the top and down there you can see Catania: there is a cross in memory of that catastrophic eruption that arrived up to surround a castle that was at the sea, near the coast.
Now that castle is inside the city of Catania and no longer at sea.
It was a wonderful day, in a beautiful town.
This is life, this is Sicily.
A day full of great food, of the warmth of the Sicilians and, in these parts, also of Etna!
Author: Giovanni Vallone (Cultural Department Splendid Sicily)
Translation and main narrator: Giovanna Battaglia (Cultural Department Splendid Sicily)