John versus the Volcano – Day 2: Trains & Terre Nere

First can I please offer in the way of a guarantee after yesterday’s ramblings the following: There will be, at some point during this post, a wine review of sorts.

The day started a little blurry – probably due to the previous night’s gallon of mystery wine or perhaps because the bed was just a little too hard? No, I can sleep anywhere, it was the wine.

Up and packed I headed back onto the streets of Catania eager to start my journey to the north of Mount Etna – Wine country.

Arriving at Catania central station I thought I had everything under control.

My research had told me that I needed to buy a ticket to Randazzo, said ticket would be valid for the initial Metro stage of my journey and onwards to my final destination.

Oh, if it had been so simple.

Firstly the ticket machine was out of order and the queue at the office was immense. There were plenty of staff chit-chatting behind the glass wall however I am presuming union rules state that only one desk can be open at any given time and who am I to argue against that.

Eventually I became second in line and I overheard the couple in front asking for tickets. Tickets to Nice. Nice!? You’re on a fraking island!!!

Some time passes – it could have been minutes, it could have been days – but I finally make it to the front of the queue. I manage to stumble through: Un biglietto di Randazzo per favore. This is met with general shooing away and fevered pointing. Apparently I have to buy this ticket, Lord only knows why, at the tobacconists. Of course I do, stupid me.

Off I go to the tobacconists and repeat my well rehearsed request. Blankly he stares back at me as if to say: I’m a tobacconist!

I am now being ushered outside the station to the bus ticket counter. Sure, why not, I’ll give it a shot.

The old man behind the glass struggled to understand my parrot like ability to say one line in Italian. Yet we did manage to get to a mutual understanding that I needed to take a train and he was selling bus tickets.

The continuing discussion of things I already knew lead to the fact that I needed to take the Metro first, and his suggestion was that if I perhaps did that I could then get my train ticket at the other end. Fine. Good idea. So, where do I get a Metro ticket? Oh, you can use a bus ticket. Aaaaargh!!!

At long last I arrived at the station ready to board one of the most unusual, quaint and beautiful train services in the world – The Ferrovia Circumetnea.

As it’s name suggests, the Circumetnea travels almost completely around the whole of Mount Etna, and I can think of no better way to experience this glorious landscape.

Of course it does have a downside. Chiefly – It’s old and knackered. My train broke down several times on the journey and left me with the daunting prospect of night hiking (or at least dark hiking) to my hotel.

Another full day of traveling left little room for drinking – but you know me, I struggled through!

During an amazing meal of farfalle with pistachio (who’d have thought that would work!?) served with possibly the finest grated parmesan I have ever tasted, followed by pork braised in beer and red onion, I ordered a bottle of Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso.

My first taste of what I set out to find here on the volcano, and it didn’t disappoint.

A rich velvety red in the glass and a comforting spicy nose. With so many complex layers of aroma it becomes hard to pinpoint. Like that first moment when you walk into a spice market, the overwhelming attack on the senses, you understand that each scent is different yet combined they create they’re own unescapable whole.

The layers of interest continue on the palate. The Terre Nere Etna Rosso is smooth and light yet bursting with fruity ripeness. Dry enough to zing the tip of your tongue but not zap all of the moisture from your mouth. Balanced yet thrilling.

Nothing is as simple as seems on Mount Etna. Be it the wine or the trains – It appears that here, if you want to experience the destination, you have to be prepared to go through the journey.

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