Welcome to our very first installment of Wanderlust Wednesdays! I’ll be sharing travel guides, videos, and stories. There is also a new page called Travel where you can look up posts according to location. Definitely check it out if you’re interested in visiting San Francisco for some must hit gems. If you are here looking for recipes, check out some of my recent posts on the right or stop by on Mondays and Fridays where I will still be sharing plenty of yummy Sweet Tea Sweetie dishes!
We are kicking off our first Wanderlust Wednesday with Mount Etna in Sicily. What better way to start than with the tallest active volcano in Europe right?
One of the best decisions we made in Sicily was to arrange a private sunset hike with GoEtna. Let me tell you, they were so awesome to work with! We had a tight window of time to work with and they were able to make exactly what I wanted happen! We were picked up at the Catania airport by our guide and our driver in their off roading jeep. They took care of our bags and had water bottles in the car for us which were much needed after 20 hours of traveling! We were even able to rent hiking boots for the excursion. Somehow hiking boots weren’t something that made the cut in our Europe adventure carryons! 🙂
No matter where we were in Catania and as we headed out of town, Mount Etna loomed in the distance with constant curls of smoke reminding us that she is still active. The excitement grew as she got closer!
Our tour took us down large highways to smaller roads and eventually down an ancient road, build by the Romans with two tracks for the carriage wheels. What? I was concerned that we shouldn’t be driving on something so historic. Our guide laughed and that history is so built into this island that if we didn’t drive down these roads, that we’d never get anywhere! Tiered vineyards carved right into the side of Mount Etna make good use of the rich volcanic soil to create a favorite local wine called Etna Bianco. Our first chance to get out and really experience Etna was a stop at the caves. Natural caves were expanded by locals to store snow and ice throughout the year. It is said that the local dish of granita (check out my sweet tea version) was crushed ice pulled from these caves and served with lemon or almond as the only thing bearable to eat in the hot summer sun. It is also said that the caves were originally used by robbers who would stash their loot until they could make a clean getaway with it! After donning hard hats and tucking flashlights into our pockets, we scaled down a wet rope to the pitch black caves. I was so grateful for those flashlights! You could see the large piles of snow keeping the space nice and cold. The cave was small (about the size of most San Francisco apartments) and it too quickly led us to a set of steep wet stairs that miraculously got us back up topside! Our jeep stopped at the highest point on the road. It was a little ski shack where hikers and skiers stop to warm up and grab a drink. We sampled the delicious Etna Fire (a local fiery liquor that will knock your socks off), pistachio liquor made from locally grown pistachios, and the creamiest local chocolates. I stashed several in my bag, strapped on hiking boots, and headed up the volcano for one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever been on! Hiking the volcano was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. The haze sitting on the island as we looked across to the mainland was a constant reminder of powerful volcano that we were standing on. Below you can see Taormina, our next stop sitting on the top of the cliff jutting out into the Mediterranean.
Now here’s the part that I’m most excited to share with you….our first video! It’s got some of the off roading on the lava beds, some of the hike, and gorgeous views. Please let me know what you think!!!