Etna is a constant presence for those who visit the eastern part of Sicily: wherever you go, Etna is in the background, being nearly 3000 m tall. It's huge. Daunting and attracting at the same time. Do you really think you can win the temptation to climbing up its nearly 2000 m altitude? Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe, another reason to put our flag on it, isn't t? Don't risk missing it, you know you will regret!
Total distance: 540km
total elevation: 10350m
Duration: 7 days
difficulty level: Challenge
Arrival at Catania airport, transfer (not included)to accommodation in Taormina at a four-star hotel.
It’s a mix of coastline and hills inland on this first cycling day in Sicily: our week begins with a demanding and beautiful stage with medium distance climbs, the longest being 12 km long. Deep into the Alcantara canyon, we climb up the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Aiuto at 1000m ASL, nearly the top of Mount Kalfa. From there, the stage explores - across narrow and quiet countryside roads - a very spectacular and lush area. Is there a place where we can stop to grab a cappuccino? Of course there is, and it’s the famous and lovely Bar Vitelli in Savoca, straight from Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ movie. From there, a thrilling and winding descent will take us again to the coastline, on the way back to hotel.
After an early start, we ride up the 1800m ASL of Piano Provenzana, stage finish of Giro d'Italia 2020.
The main climb up there is 18 km long and alternates consistent sections around 5% and steeper stretches, with the last 3 km climb to Piano Provenzana being the hardest part of the ride: slopes are above 10%. We'll wait to see who'll cross victorious the line, and also wait for the bunch to finish the stage, then we will ride down to Fornazzo and then back to our hotel.
Today we'll ride up to the 1125m ASL of Portella Mandrazzi’s pass, KOM of of 6th Giro stage 2020, through the Etna’s vineyards easy slopes. After Passopisciaro we'll start the 14 km of climb up to Portella Mandrazzi pass. Amazing landscapes all around, with the majestic volcano in the background. Giro d’Italia faced Portella Mandrazzi pass twice: in 1999 in the stage Catania-Messina, won by the Dutch sprint specialist Jeroen Blijlevens and in 2003 in the Messina - Catania, won by Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. Reached the top, we will descend to Francavilla di Sicilia and then back in Taormina. And who knows, maybe will do a sprint finish too!
We'll face the southern side of Etna through the villages spread across the Etna belt such as Pedara, Nicolosi and Ragalna. Between Nicolosi and Ragalna we'll take a stop in one of the awesome local pastry shops to refuel before the challenging second part of the stage, up to the Sapienza refuge, at 1910m above sea level. To get there, we’ll climb for 14km, with some very steep walls up to 20% at about 8 km from top.
THAT'S WHERE THE MITCHELTON-SCOTT RIDERS, ESTEBAN CHAVES AND SIMON YATES, BUILT UP THE VICTORY IN 2018 ETNA STAGE. AND WE WERE THERE WATCHING ON OUR FIRST GIRO CAMP IN SICILY!
The climb is demanding, but the unbelievable views are worth the effort. After a stop for a quick lunch at the Sapienza refuge, we’ll start our way back to the hotel descending from Zafferana Etnea. Up and down till Vena and then all the way down to Fiumefreddo di Sicilia.
From Linguaglossa we’ll ride along the Quota Mille road, on the northern Etna slopes. From there we’ll head to Maletto, the tallest town in Etna circle at 1000 ASL, and then down to Randazzo, a small village built with black lava stone and consequently known as “black city”. All around many vineyards tell us about the noted wine production from this fertile area. And right through the vineyards we’ll reach the Alcantara valley, famous for the noted gorges, a basalt canyon created by watercourses and lava flow. A continuous up and down will bring us back to the hotel.
Transfer to Catania airport (not included) and end of services.
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 43
Quartu Sant'Elena, Cagliari