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Sicily

On the volcano by train, a tour of Etna by Ferrovia Circumetnea

A train that climbs an active volcano exists, and it is located in Sicily.

22 November 2022

3 minutes

This is the Ferrovia Circumetnea, an ancient railway line that dates back to the end of the 19th century.

It travels along the slopes of Mount Etna, a Unesco World Heritage Site, to discover Europe's highest active volcano from an unusual viewpoint. 

1. A round trip to the volcano

a trip to canello on the volcano

The trip starts in Catania, at Borgo station, and arrives at Riposto, completing a loop around the volcano. On the way, you pass through ancient foothill villages, old deserted stations, towns, orchards and vineyards, fields of pistachio nuts and prickly pears, as well as expanses of lava rock.

On the way up, the smoking craters of Etna - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - often appear, while down in the valley you can see the sparkling sea. You can travel in both directions.

If you arrive by train from Giardini Naxos/Taormina, the most convenient departure station is Giarre. The entire journey is 110 km long and takes 3 hours, unless you decide to get off at some of the intermediate stops and take the time to visit one of the Etna villages.

2. Villages not to be missed along the Circumetnea Railway

villages not to be missed along the railway

Shortly after leaving Catania, the train crosses the 1669 lava flow that reached the city. Once past the town of Misterbianco, a majestic mountain landscape emerges.

At Paternò, there is a fascinating Norman castle in an elevated position above the town.

A stop not to be missed is Adrano, which retains traces of the Greek era, a magnificent Norman fortress that houses an interesting archaeological museum, aristocratic palaces built of lava stone, and fascinating churches.

The famous Sicilian pistachio is cultivated in Bronte. If it is lunchtime, stop at a trattoria to enjoy a plate of pistachio pasta or visit a pastry shop to sample a dessert made with this unique-tasting ingredient. A few kilometres from the town is also Nelson's Castle.

Immediately after the Bronte station, you reach the highest point of the journey at 967 metres above sea level, at Rocca Calanna. From here onwards you start descending again towards the sea.

First, however, stop at Randazzo. It is located halfway along the route and is a mediaeval town rich in history. It is built around the three churches of Santa Maria, San Nicolò and San Martino, which correspond to the three ancient quarters: Latin, Greek and Lombard. Don't miss the romantic Via degli Archi and the Swabian castle that houses the archaeological museum.

3. Some people travel by train, some people savour by train

there are those who travel by train tasting

On Thursdays and Sundays you can book a tour dedicated to Etna's wines.

The ticket includes the train ride and a special wine bus that will wait for you at certain stops to take you to wineries in the area around Passopisciaro, Solicchiata and Castiglione di Sicilia. Here, the best Sicilian Etna wines are produced from vines grown on the rich volcanic soil. The tour includes wine tasting and sets off from Riposto.

4. Train and bike, a fine choice

train and bike choice

If you are feeling sporty, the Treno su Due Ruote (Train on Two Wheels) initiative is definitely for you, for a bike tour of Etna.

You can combine a train ride on the slopes of the volcano with a bicycle excursion on the numerous trails available on Etna. Take your bike on board and alight at one of the stations between Catania and Randazzo to discover Etna's landscapes by bike.

If you are exploring the beauties of the region of Sicily, the Ferrovia Circumetnea provides you with a ticket to an unforgettable natural spectacle that is all Italian.