Fall for Etna: At the foot of Sicily’s dormant volcano, this town makes its money on olive trees

Nestled among the dead-end village streets on the slopes of Mount Etna—Italy’s biggest active volcano—is a small collection of antique olive trees that thrive in the cold and damp, fruit trees that thrive in the bright sunlight and variable temperature. The ground is tilled, the soil tested and protected with a layer of earth where the European Union generously funds. Today, this work is done by the people of San Giorgio, where the presence of olive trees—the ancestors of today’s Italian harvest—exists in between the alleys of high-rise, forty-two-story buildings. From the hills of Mount Etna, their olive trees, too, reflect down on the city like bluish stars across a deep blue sky. There is some shade in the way of olive groves which overlook the rooftops of San Giorgio’s buildings, where people wander from the tourist hotels to shop for handbags. The trees are immense—lasting decades on most trees—and the signs are meager of care, pest and disease control. Not a seed has been sown since the 1970s. But, from this outpost, San Giorgio offers tourism, albeit a low-key and affordable kind. Tours come here to see Mount Etna, standing on its flank, from beneath it. To learn more, they will also come here to see the olive trees.

Leave a Comment