If you don’t have time to climb to Etna’s summit, there are other options and one of them is to take the Circumetnea train. The 110 km long railway is a private line that runs around the base of the volcano through fertile lands and lava formations. It really is a one of a kind journey or in Edmondo de Amicis’ own words: “The Circumetnea is the most beautiful circular trip that can be done in seven hours on the face of the Earth.”
The tour begins in the village of Giarre – Risposto, 30 minutes away from Taormina and the second stop on the line. The closest village to the summit is Randazzo, a dark, medieval site built entirely out of lava.
The train has a single car that goes on a seemingly impossible route, making it’s way through petrified lava. Seen from above it has the appearance of a children’s train ride and the narrow gauge rails makes it look even tinier. Depending on weather and season the trip can take up to 5 hours and it goes through fascinating scenery that changes appearance from lunar landscapes to pistachio filled plantations and wonderful citrus groves that invite you to take a break. Cactuses loaded with fruits guide you along the way and old abandoned stations where tolls were paid many years ago give you some insight into the history of the railway.
The railway was established in 1895 and a few pieces of history still remain to remind us of times long past. Two Fiat ALN 56 motor coaches also known as Littorine survived their time and are used in the summer for special rides around Etna.