“The port capacious, and secure from wind, Is to the foot of thund’ring Etna joined. By turns a pitchy cloud she rolls on high: By turns hot embers from her entrails fly, And flakes of mounting flames, that lick the sky. Oft from her bowels massy rocks are thrown, And shivered by the force come piece-meal down. Oft liquid lakes of burning sulphur flow, Fed from the fiery springs that boil below.” Virgil – roughly 20 BC
In the verdant foothills of mount Etna there is a wild and significant culture of foraging for everything from spring onions, to chestnuts and wild herbs, but my favorite thing to indulge in are wild mushrooms which absorb and exude the butterfly perfume of beech tress and pines in a heady expression of their unique soil, flora and climate. Lactarius Deliciosus are easy to find in the pine groves and sadly are easy to confuse with Whooly Milkcaps which are rampant and poisonous. The porcini are exceptional and are often cooked on a hot lava stone heated directly on an open fire. They are also served with pasta simply fried in oil and finished with garlic and lemon. The recipe below was developed using several layers of wet paper and the mushrooms are cooked on the embers of a camp fire. I have substituted dreamy local hedgehogs for the Porcini and they are just right for this dish.
Etna is a live and active volcano and worth a visit. Set up your sleeping arrangements in beautiful Taormina and take a day trip with a licensed guide to see the wonder of the park and especially real live lava flow. Check with local experts about choosing the best time to visit as it changes every year.