Winegrowing on Etna Mountain (Sicily Part 5)

The drive from Ortigia to Randazzo is not too bad at all. In fact, it’s kind of fun at times, with all of its narrow, winding roads that go up and up for the better part of an hour. Just past the midway point, is this crazy-big place called Etna Land. Kind of strange, this place (it’s 3 theme parks in one), as it’s basically in the middle of nowhere – but what do I know. Anyway, enough about that, on to Randazzo.

The towns between Ortigia and Randazzo (once you escape the gravity of Siracusa) are small; some might even say tiny. And as the landscapes between the two towns begins to change: the flat roads near Syracuse, often clogged with traffic (mostly very, very slow trucks) gives way to wide expanses of green, fertile land and wonderfully alive valleys that seem to stretch forever. At this point (I’m a mountain guy, my wife is a beach gal), I’m starting to get excited because the air is crisp, filled with the sweet smell of wood smoke,  and there’s green, wavy hills in every direction. And, as a bonus, there’s basically no one on the road this day. In either direction.

Google Maps was my navigator that day, as it has been/will be for most of this 3-month trip. And except for some spotty reception in really remote/rural places, or while standing or driving in between, large buildings with extremely narrow streets, it was a good and reliable aid. I should also mention, that Google Maps seems to use a modest amount of data on my cellular plan (much different here than in the states, as the plans here are basically just 1G of data/month). Having said that, I have been travelling now for nearly a month, tend to use Google Maps each day and have yet to exceed my data allowance.

Randazzo is different than most of the small villages I passed through on my way here, it was alive, the towns people flitting from one store to another, cars going this way and that, more wood smoke in the air, and of course, Etna mountain with its snow-capped peak easily visible.

I pulled over to get my bearings, and to walk around for a half an hour and stretch my legs before attempting to find my lodging for the night. For some reason, it gave me the idea of what it might have been like when first pulling into a rich mining town back in the days of the Old West. Maybe it was the hustle and bustle, maybe it was the air thick with sweet wood smoke, or perhaps it was just my mind wandering. More likely, it was all of the aforementioned.

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My walk was very productive – got to stretch my legs, found my lodging, and, of course, found the best wine list in town and made a reservation at San Giorgio e Il Drago (St. George and the Dragon), where the food turned out to be just a good as the wine list was impressive. I ended up going here for lunch and dinner every day for the next 4 days. Yup, that good.

So, back to fetch the car, and then make my way over (a 2 minute drive, at most) to see what €30/night through Booking.com got me. Well, no real surprise here, I suppose, because the room I got, as centrally located as it gets by the way, was fantastic. If you’re on a budget (or not), I recommend staying here at B&B Edelweiss, and if you’re clicking on the link, I didn’t find any of the outdated furniture or noisy dogs that some old reviews suggested. It’s very clean, has large rooms, with spacious, very clean showers, and it’s just a 30 second walk away from the breakfast part of the equation, Cafe del Corso, where you are able to turn in a voucher for a caffè and a brioche each day.

The wine list from St. George and the Dragon

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The next day, Sunday, was a day of rest. More importantly, I suppose, it was a day of warmth and sunshine. Below is a picture of a motorcycle club out to enjoy the fine weather (must have been 100 bikers, probably more) with a view from the street I stay on, and the people headed to the (quite) large Sunday market where one could find virtually anything they needed (I found a sewing kit to repair some shorts). And, well, some really good food.

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Thankfully the weather held the next day, too, as I began my day with a 20 minute drive from Randazzo to Tenuta delle Terre Nere. My guide this day was a young man named Marco, whom I first met at Vin Italy 2014 when he poured me barrel samples and current releases. I honestly never thought I’d see him again, let alone at the Terre Nere winery, so I was very glad for this day and the tour of each of the separate vineyards (via truck, they’re spread out and at several different altitudes.

(to be continued…)

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