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Sicily 2004 – Mummies, Mausoleums, Mountains and Magma

Mount Etna. Even the name conjures up visions of a majestic snow-capped mountain spewing red-hot lava and billowing clouds of smoke and steam.

Having never before visited an active volcano, we made our first visit to Sicily in 2004 to celebrate a friend's birthday, to do something that none of us had ever done. In just one week, we found ourselves frustrated by Mount Etna's temper and her unpredictable, personal weather system, saw magical lava flows, visited a sinister mausoleum and spent a day in the upmarket Sicilian resort of Taormina.

In November 2004 we stayed in an "Agriturismo" - "Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast" style accommodation, which is very popular in Italy and the islands. Based at Aziendo Blandano, an organic vineyard and farm in the Viagrande province of Catania, this location gave us excellent views north-west towards Mount Etna and a convenient base from which to explore the surrounding area.

Mount Etna at sunrise with fresh snowfalls from the previous night, from Viagrande - November 2004

Mount Etna at sunrise with fresh snowfalls from the previous night, from Viagrande
November 2004 - (c) Mat & Niki Adlam-Stiles

Despite the disadvantages of the unpredictable November weather, we were able to make the most of a good day's lower-level trekking around the North side of Mount Etna guided by Fabio of Natour . Fabio's local knowledge and his clear expertise regarding the flora and fauna of Mount Etna added an extra dimension to our guided walk and we were suitably impressed with the breathtakingly-stark contrast of the first snows of winter on the still-steaming black, rubbly lava at the Monte Nero craters.