of all the various inhabited centres nestling in the Etna Natural Park,
is without a doubt one of the most characterful.
Zafferana Etnea is a small town of clear blue skies,
a mild climate and healthy air.
The panorama is unique:
to the east is the Ionian coast running from the Gulf of Syracuse up to Taormina;
to the west the highest active volcano in Europe.
Etna, crowned with its rich woods of chestnut and beech.
The pearl of Etna,
as it is deservedly called,
stands at 600 metres above sea level,
23 Km from Catania and 30 from Taormina;
8.255 inhabitants populating a surface of about 76.12 squares kilometres.
Its name comes from the Arab Zaufanah,
which for some indicates the yellow gorse that grows among the lava rocks of this area;
for others ti means “the whistling wind” or even “town rich in water”.
Gerolamo Boccardo’s Italian Encyclopedia gives us some historical informations.
As he recounts that in the 1.700s there was widespread cultivations
in Europe of the flower known as Saffron.
It was instead called Zafarana
where both the wild and the domestic varieties were cultivated.
Boccardo writes” This crop, in the small town of Zafferana Etnea was the main industry,
from which the name comes”.
in order of avoiding confusion with others Sicilian towns,
the other name Etnea was added.
The town’s origins are tied to the settlement
between the 12th and the 17th centuries,
in the valle San Giacomo,
of a group of Benedictine friars.
Some documents confirmed the existence of the Priory
dating to the end of 14th century,
in particular a Papal Bull of Eugenius IV,
which testifies to the fact that on 25 July each year,
the valleys was full of pilgrims from all-over Sicily who came
to pay homage to S. James.
Unfortunately, the 1693 earthquake destroyed the hermitage.
the Priory of S. Giacomo with an adjacent church,
is merely a farm building that has become a shelter for shepherds from the summer hit.