When we talke about off-road tours we are used to thinking about a sandy, almost desert territory where it is possible to follow a track traced specifically.
It is not so if you do it on the territory of the volcano: off-road on Etna is done on tracks built on old roads cut by lava flows more recent,so pre-existing paths that are not walked by common vehicles as they are very tortuous.
Why is it interesting to do a tour of this kind? To answer this question we quote the words of one of our guides, Emanuele, an expert geologist who has been leading our groups to discover the volcano for several years.
Emanuele says: “To explain the beauty and peculiarities of this type of excursion it is necessary to explain the territory of the volcano. It is possible to divide Mt.Etna into 4 concentric rings. The first ring is the urbanized one,where there are the inhabited centres,from 0 to 800/850 mt above sea level. This is the urban area that can be travelled only with “on-road” cars. Then there are zones C and D: here there may be human activities such as caves or “trazzere” and you can have an off-road tour. So it is possible to leave the SP92 Mareneve road and start this route to discover unknown and unexplored areas. For this reason we can say that 4×4 tour do not take place at high altitudes but in more hidden areas,because they are difficult to do with no adequate vehicles. With 4×4 cars you can get closer to zone B which is absolutely not accessible in off-road: here you will find hiking trails preferably walked on foot or with “on-road” cars. Finally, the last zone is the zone A, where there is the Etna top area,where nature is preserved in its integrity”.
You are probably wondering how you can imagine a route in “off-road”. Let’s try to explain it through the description of Tony, a naturalistic guide. He described us a route that begins in a larch pine forest whose undergouwth is formed by lush ferns that in summer reach even a meter in height. During the route you cross several historical flows that have totally changed the landscape and the typical flows that are active only during the melting of the snow,creating small waterfalls on beds of basalt rock polished by water erosion. Another characteristing is the lava that in 2002 destroyed the road of the park in an area know as “la curva sparita” (the vanished curve)where you can appreciate the destructive effects of lava that invades an artifact, such as a small curve of asphalt surrounded by a wall of almost 10 meters of lava.
So..it remains just to live this experience soon!