The Etna Park, in Sicily, does not only offer the beauty of the volcano and of its spectacular eruptions, but also a vegetation deeply bound to this particular territory and under continuous transformation. Visitors will be immersed in an atmosphere where the natural view offered to the eyes by the unforgettable landscapes of these places goes hand in hand with the tasting of the local fruits as they are grown or expertly processed by the local population. All the itineraries organized by the park organization are conceived to bring together into a single figure the visitor, the nature lover and the taster. Here food is considered a mediator between the host, the volcano and its populations. For those who enjoy a festival, every period of the year is the right one. The festive occasions for exalting the many products of this land are plenty: from wine to chestnuts, from honey to cheese, from salted meat to the perfect Etna olive oil.
One of the simplest wine & food itineraries, easily organized by any tourist, foresees the arrival in Catania, a town rich in artistic attractions, then onwards to the Etna villages among which Castiglione di Sicilia certainly deserves a place of honour, it being one of the wine towns: in its many wine farms one can taste and buy Doc wines of the area, whites, reds and rosés, already historically known and praised by Pliny. The Etna wine road crosses many other lovely small towns, all worth visiting, such as Acireale, Aci Castello and Aci Trezza, the village that faces the sea and which owes part of its fame to I Malavoglia, the famous novel by Giovanni Verga, and then Etna, Taormina, a famous tourist resort and seat of an important film festival, besides, of course, Catania itself.
The whites of the area have a straw-yellow colour with light golden hues, a delicate scent and a dry, fresh and harmonious flavour. The reds, of ruby red colour, that with ageing takes on light garnet-red or rosé hues, have a vinous, intense and characteristic scent and a dry, warm, robust and full taste.
These Sicilian lands, however, do not offer only excellent wines, but also a variety of typical regional dishes that derive part of their peculiarity precisely from the vicinity of the highest European volcano, the Etna that with its eruptions has made the terrain very fertile and has permitted the cultivation of citrus fruits, like lemons and oranges, of incomparable colours and flavours, as well as the expansion of olive-tree groves that produce an oil of renowned organoleptic properties, i.e. Monti Iblei and Monte Etna. Catania cuisine derives from the union of the fruits of this ever-generous land with the fruits of its rich sea. The hors-d'oeuvres, very simple but with strong taste, are composed by olives seasoned with chilli peppers that are best with every kind of vegetable. Famous is the local parmigiana di melanzane, but the fried zucchine and the bastardu affucatu, a cauliflower pie with the unfailing olives and with cheese and anchovies, must be tasted too; unforgettable are the fried or roasted bell peppers, stuffed with all kinds of stuffings, whereas another omnipresent vegetable is the artichoke. The first courses reflect peasant traditions, such as pasta seasoned with broccoli or legumes, although praiseworthy is also the pasta seasoned with fish sauce. The second courses can be chosen among the different cheeses (among which very savoury Ricottas), fish soups, prawn and anchovy salads, sausages with panned vegetables.
The end of any dinner is but the beginning of another journey into the colours and particular and often bittersweet taste of Sicilian desserts. Confectioners in Sicily are institutions and historical monuments in which the works of art are pistachio creams, pasta reale, biscuits with daters and figs, babà all'uovo, ice mousses and, of course, cassata siciliana. Grated-ice drinks deserve special mention; they are available in tastes that cannot be found elsewhere (unforgettable the mulberry one), that often end in very sweet-smelling brioches just out of the oven. Etna is a land to be savoured completely. Prepare for a journey where the eyes feast on new colour hues and where the palate is introduced to unsuspected weddings between sweet and salty flavours.