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Etna: between myths, cinema and literature over the centuries

Stories and legends about the highest Volcano in Europe

So powerful and proud, since ancient times  our Etna has been the object of inspiration for artists, intellectuals and writers. The highest Volcano in Europe, irreplaceable symbol of the city of Catania, has been, in fact, over the centuries, mentioned in countless literary works, but also in various legends and myths that have been handed down in history.

The Greeks showed particular interest in our Volcano: just think of the philosopher Empedocles, who is said in the myth that he fell into the crater, pushed by curiosity to discover and observe up close the volcanic phenomena.

There are many Greek myths that mention the Etna’s wine, one of the favorites wine of the god Bacchus.

Epic poems should be mentioned as well, especially Homer’s Odyssey: as handed down by tradition, to which the people of Catania are very fond and proud, the magnificent Faraglioni that rise imposing in Aci Trezza, are nothing more than rocks of volcanic origin thrown by the Cyclops Polyphemus.

Or, again, our wonderful Volcano is also mentioned in the Aeneidof Virgil: “There lies a harbour, safe from the winds’ approach and spacious in itself, but near at hand Aetna thunders with terrifying crashes, and now hurls forth to the sky a black cloud, smoking with pitch-black eddy and glowing ashes, and uplifts balls of flame and licks the stars – now violently vomits forth rocks, the mountain’s top uptorn entrails, and whirls molten stone skyward with a roar, and boils up from its lowest depths”.

Among the Renaissance era an entire literary work was dedicated to Etna: it is the “De Aetna“, by Pietro Bembo, who went to the top of the Volcano, and who wrote his experience completely in latin. 

The author explains that he decided to dedicate an entire work to his visit to Etna, because after returning from his trip to Sicily, the curiosity of friends and relatives who wanted to know more about it, was so strong that Bembo worked at a detailed  written description of his experience on Etna, so that everyone could be part of it.

But Etna was not only a source of inspiration for Greek writers and thinkers; on the contrary, visiting the Volcano during the Risorgimento was a real must dofor all European intellectuals. And so, for example, Etna was one of the most important stop during the trip to Italy of the leader of the Sturm und Drang Goethe, who was really satisfied about it. In his work Italian Journeyof 1816, adapted from his personal diary, Goethe gives us a very detailed description of his walk on Etna, quoting the visit to the Monti Rossi, the old lava flows and also referring to the small village of Nicolosi. 

Goethe was so enthusiastic about Sicily to declare: “Without Sicily, Italy Creates No Image In The Soul: Here Is The Key To Everything”.

Also some contemporary authors wrote about Etna, and in this case we cannot but mention the great poet, writer and movie director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who decides to set four of his films on Etna (Il Vangelo secondo MatteoPorcile,Teorema and I Racconti di Canterbury). Furthermore, Pasolini had not simply been impressed by Etna: much more, he was strongly bound especially at an emotional level, almost intimate. In fact, there are many autobiographical and photographic witnesses that portray Pasolini on Etna: as he himself said, Etna was his personal place to look for peace, as it was for some of the protagonists of his films, mostly members of bourgeoisie, who tried to escape from the frenzy of the city for a while and found peace on Etna. 

Still today, Etna does not lose its charm, and we are sure that this will never happen. Our Volcano boasts origins, a territory, a history, amazing landscapes to which one nobody remains indifferent, and that is why every year it is chosen as one of the main stages, by tourists who come to visit Catania and Sicily. 

 If you also want to spend a day away from the traffic of the city, walking through paths, discovering old lava flows during an excursion, surrounded by the smells and colors of our magnificent land, or if you are curious to taste the DOC wines of our Etna during a real wine tasting, you can not miss our guided tours!