Let's all climb down into a dark cave.

Sant' Alfio Travel Blog

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After a bit, we turn off a main road and onto a narrower mountain road. There are many more trees and a lot of them hang over the road giving this area a different feel. The first hillside town that we come to, we stop for a “pee pee “break, as Paolo put it.  Some had coffee or a drink so, we had a few minutes. There was a terrace with a great view of the coast from even farther away and nice mountain views, as well. There was an interesting mixture of architecture in town, the church was Neo-Classical but there were also buildings with eastern design elements that made for excitement. There was lush vegetation with a great deal of palm trees and beautiful flowers.


We returned to the car and continued out trek into the Etna area.

We entered the lava fields and first made a quick stop at the location of the lava flow from the 2002 eruption. It is very acidic and no vegetation will grow on it for around 200 years. All around it was lush and green with a forest of trees.


Another 15 minute ride and we are at our next destination, Grotto dei Ladroni, at Sant’Alficio. The name of the cave means the cave of thieves. We got out of the jeep and it was misting rain. Paolo passed out yellow safety helmets, flashlights, and I changed my shoes and off we went, through the woods, stopping briefly to see some of the porcini that grow wild here. We saw two men with basket’s full of them in the trunk of their car. One of the ladies with our group asked to see them.


There are the most beautiful birch trees here that Paolo told us are unique in their whiteness.

Birch trees grow in cooler areas which this elevation should support but, with all of the black volcanic soil absorbing the sunlight and warmth, the trees needed to keep cooler. They adapted by turning themselves more white than white birch trees normally are.


At the grotto, Paolo tied the tree at the opening of the cave we were to descend which was about 30 feet deep. It was dark and you couldn’t see a thing as you went down. We climbed down with the assistance of the rope and into the underground volcanic cave. Caves like this are formed where the outer area of lava cools first forming a shell and then the interior lava continues to flow out. The roof of the cave forms sharp “dogs teeth” stalactites as the lava solidifies. They can be razor sharp. The ceiling of the cave was very low (1 ½ meters) except for the center of the cave which was only 2 meters. Upon looking back at how we entered, I was surprised at how scary it looked as I could not see to the top. There were 3 vent tubes that were round and extended to the surface, a sight from below. The exit was much easier as someone had fashioned stairs from the lava rock. It was interesting as I have never been in a lava cave but, I wouldn’t want to stay there for any length of time. Let’s go!

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Sant' Alfio
photo by: delsol67