Journey to Sicily, European intellectuals discovering Etna

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In the book by Maria Lionti, out on 9 September 2022, the travel diaries of the European intellectuals who challenged the volcano to discover Sicily in the first Grand Tour of Etna.

“Everything that nature has that is great, everything that nature has that is pleasant, everything that nature has that is terrible can be compared to Etna and Etna cannot be compared to anything”

Dominique Vivand Denon, Voyage en Sicilie, 1788

The mountain challenges, the volcano fascinates and those travelers, who over the centuries have faced Etna, overcoming its dangers, the expanses of ice and bare rock, in that no-holds-barred duel between man and nature itself, those who experienced the first Grand Tour of Etna as protagonists, they discovered much more than a mountain, much more than a volcano.

Goethe, Wagner, Sartorius, Loewe, are just some of the men and women who, attracted by the call to classicism relaunched in Europe by Sturm und Drang, traveled to Sicily.

Their adventures, discoveries and memories have come to us thanks to travel diaries of inestimable value that the author Maria Lionti collected in the essay The Grand Tour of Etna a timeless volcano, published by Bonfirraro Editore, coming out in all bookshops and online stores on 9 September 2022.

The book, enriched by the preface by the internationally renowned volcanologist Boris Behncke and by the photographs of Giuseppe Vitali, will be premiered on 3 September at 19:30 at the Terrace of the Town Hall (Municipality of Milo) within the evocative setting of the Vinimilo2022 which will be held right on Etna.

Maria Lionti talks about the volcano and the journey, “the encounter between these two passions and the desire to share them with the reader constitute the soul of this book”, explains the author, “On the one hand, a mountain inhabited for centuries, earth fertile, rich in resources and landscape beauties, on the other an active volcano, oscillating between myth and history, an object of scientific and tourist interest “.

With its 3000 meters high, the Etna that the author of the Grand Tour of Etna tells us, through unpublished testimonies, is not only the highest active volcano in Europe, but a giant that stands behind the city of Catania, a warning and a guide for the people of the entire island of Sicily.

A people whose history is made up of deep stratifications which, just like the lava, whose layers characterize the land of Sicily, have shaped its culture and identity.

“A muntagna” is a land of myth and legend, and Maria Lionti’s Grand Tour of Etna can only start from Homer and Empedocle’s Sicily, a land inhabited by nymphs and cyclops who, after centuries, seem to be of the European travelers, more real than ever.

But it is in fact the soul of man to make the real voyage of discovery, the soul that seeks refreshment and answers, like that of Goethe who chooses the restlessness of the volcano to find a peace never experienced before.

“Italy, without Sicily, leaves no image in the soul: here is the key to everything. The purity of the contours, the softness of the whole, the range of shades, the harmony that united sky, sea and earth. Anyone who has seen it will have it at heart for a lifetime. “


(Goethe, Journey to Italy)

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But the Sicily of Il Grand Tour dell’Etna is also the protagonist of scientific and naturalistic discoveries. Scholars such as the geologist Wolfgang Sartorius Freiherrn von Walternhausen or the biologist Ernst Haeckel are in fact “interested in scientific research on the volcano”, explains Lionti, “The writer Gottfried Seume and the poet Wilhelm Waiblinger have left us accurate descriptions of the suggestive landscapes seen from the top of the ‘Etna and the surprising effects of the sun, which rises from the summit craters, at the end of the arduous climb.

What is particularly striking is the audacious journey of an English woman, Emily Loewe who, accompanied only by her mother, in 1857 reached Sicily, the island “loved by all the gods”, the top of Etna and Calabria, as she herself tells. in his diary. It was unusual for single women to make such long and difficult journeys, in fact from her experience Emily Loewe says that: “Nobody believed we were going to leave, since traveling to Sicily is quite unusual; only the face of a local could express the dismay at women who go around unaccompanied !!! “

“The Grand Tour of Etna is a living testimony of our history, of the history of all men, of our passions and contradictions, of the attraction that each of us will always have towards the majesty of nature, towards the mystery enclosed in our land “, Declares the publisher Salvo Bonfirraro,” With the Grand Tour of Etna we deliver to the reader not only a travel diary, but memories, emotions, a Source of inspiration to discover our land “.

Maria Lionti (Catania, 1967) teacher. She lives in Novara. Starting from a knowledge of European languages ​​and literatures and of the Etna area, you have deepened the travel literature of the Grand Tour in Sicily and on Etna, considered essential stops of the Grand Tour of Italy. The Grand Tour of Etna. A timeless volcano is the result of this research and passion for her homeland. She talks about Etna to pay homage to the great historical, literary, geological and landscape value of a volcano in the center of the Mediterranean that has stood on the island and among her people for centuries.

“Our history is the future towards which we are moving …”: this is the maxim espoused by the publisher Salvo Bonfirraro, who loves to look far, indulging his innate and unconditional curiosity, also transmitted to his son Alberto, head of the company’s marketing sector . Each volume – fiction, poetry, non-fiction, history, foreign literature – published by this independent publishing house contains a discovery, an idea, a new way of looking at and evaluating the world and our time.

The publisher’s catalog can be consulted in all Italian bookstores, in online stores and on its website


Title: The Grand Tour of Etna a timeless volcano
Author: Maria Lionti
Publisher: Bonfirraro editore
Pages: 192
Format: 14.5 × 22 cm
Isbn: 9788862722773
Price: € 19.90

The article is in Italian

Tags: Journey Sicily European intellectuals discovering Etna

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