For their new movie, Italian Madness, the DVP crew loaded Ethan Morgan, Simon Gruber and Marco Grigis into a van and headed to Italy to ride Mount Etna - Europe's highest volcano. Check this out!
Etna – The Highest European Volcano
- Words and photo: Roby Bragotto
Italy, as is well known, is one of the strangest, most diversified and beautiful countries. It is famous worldwide for the wonderful food, the art, the people's hospitality and its incredible gestural art. In fact, thinking about it, it is known for lots of things. However, something Italy is not really well known for are its incredible mountains.
In the north east there is the Dolomites, UNESCO heritage site for the beauty and the particularity different shapes of mountains there. In the north west, in Valle d’Aosta, there are the highest European peaks such as Monte Bianco, Monte Rosa and Monte Cervino and all the others peaks in on the borders with France and Switzerland. Often the northern Italians think of the south as a place to go for summer holidays; mostly for the sea, the good weather and, of course, the food!
The south of Italy is synonymous with relaxing, flip flops, shorts and vests, beaches and crystal clear water. But the craziest thing is that in the southern area – in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, on the island of Sicily – there is an active volcano: Mount Etna. With its 3350m, Etna is Europe's highest active volcano and its frequent eruptions keep changing the landscape and, sometimes, threatens the population in its surrounding area. It is on the island's east coast, in Catanias county, just a few kilometres from the sea, which you can see perfectly from the top.
The landscape is really weird. Above 1500m the green of the vegetation transforms to strange volcanic rock, so crispy but so sharp. Smoke is always coming out from its top and, as we saw with our own eyes, it tends to spit sand and a really fine black ash really often. Another peculiarity is that it has several eruptive points all around.
Now, throw together five weird and well sorted friends with the same passion: the snowboard! A Venetian guy (me), two “Altoatesini" from the north (Simon Gruber and Marco Grigis), one from Milan (Marco Morandi) and a German guy born in Japan who's never been in the south of Italy (Ethan Morgan). A good messed up crew!
With the support of MONSTER ENERGY, already official partner of DVP's video “Searching For", we started our journey to Etna. Passing through hills, fields, mountains, and lots of winding turns, it's quickly clear that Italy has no large, straight highways like in the States. So we decided to stop in Rome for one night, and we had pizza of course! After a trip on a ferry and a lot of turns again, we arrived at Rifugio ARIEL, a little beautiful chalet next to the south lifts, but it was crazy because we could not see anything – Etna was all hidden by the fog and clouds.
The morning after we were amazed by the wonderful view: the clouds had vanished and we could see this white smoke mixed with black ash coming out from the top. In the morning the snow was iced, but then slushy and perfect for all the natural spots we found in this special playground. With the good vision of riders as Ethan, Simon and Marchino it was easy to find good spots and landing where to build some kickers. We had just to be careful of the really sharp volcanic rocks under the snow, but it is what we normally do anyway. (Is it not true Marchino??? He had a bad accident a few years ago because that...)
We spent a whole week in this incredible place, in between craters as natural spots, with a perfect combination of clouds and sea in the background, spring snow and balmy temperatures, even if it was winter. It was unreal to score such a good condition if you think how close it is to the tropical area. So perfect that we had enough frames a couple of days earlier and we could not miss the opportunity to visit Catania, one of the island's biggest towns and just one hour drive from where we were. And also we could not miss an extraordinary fish dinner with ten bottles of an extraordinary local wine. And do you think we could leave without a wild night party? Of course not!
And if you think “that's it", you wrong! The morning after, even though we were hungover and had to leave, we still squeezed in a surf session as well! In just an hour's drive you can pass from a snow session to a surf one.
It isn't Chile, it isn't New Zealand, it is Sicily with its incredible nature. Go there, live it, taste it. It is Italy's essence, able to put together north and south, where you can find everything. And not just an amazing volcano.