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Zafferana Etnea has a refined heart and the historical center is located around the huge Piazza Umberto I. At 600 meters above sea level the view of the Ionian Sea from the public gardens is fantastic. Off the square is the Church of Madonna della Provvidenza, a classic example of Sicilian baroque architecture with its white stone facade and twin bell towers. The town is the highest in the province of Catania and is unusual in that it offers both a fully developed summer and winter tourism offer. You really can ski and take in the beach on a single day in spring. Together with the volcano this is a unique visitor experience. Zafferana Etnea sits at the confluence of three volcanic valleys. They are the Valle del Bove, the Valle San Giacomo and the Val Caianna and all were formed between 100,000 and 34,000 years ago. Not that long in the scheme of things. The greenest was always the Val Calanna. It was intensely cultivated and rich with chestnut trees and orchards although it suffered greatly with the lava flows of 1992. The Valle del Bove came off even worse and the eruptions practically destroyed the coal and ski industries. That leaves the Valle San Giacomo. Situated to the north east of Zafferana Etnea the valley takes its name from a 15th century priory dedicated to San Giacomo. Pilgrims still come from all over Sicily to celebrate the saint every 25th July. They were certainly praying like mad in the summer of 2001 when Etna started gushing without a pause. The typical products from the valleys include wine, fruit, mushrooms and honey (15% of Italy's output). October is the best month to experience the flavors of the area due to the 'Ottobrata', a series of events and tastings in the squares of the town. Look out for the local biscuits called 'sciatore'. Covered in chocolate they are popular throughout the winter months.

Purists will tell you that Zibibbo is a grape variety that can be used to make anything from table wine to grappa. However, the Zibibbo made commercially by several houses is a strong wine similar to Marsala but fermented and then partially distilled naturally, without the addition of spirits. The process differs also in that Zibibbo is actually made from grapes partially fermented in the sun. It is a very old process, and Zibibbo, though not the direct precursor of Marsala, derives from a formula known in the Middle Ages. It is typically slightly lower in alcohol than Marsala (about fifteen percent compared to eighteen or twenty percent) and sometimes more robust. The Zibibbo grape is similar to Moscato, and the wine known as Moscato di Pantelleria Naturale is made mostly from Zibibbo grapes.

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