On 6 May 1787, the German writer climbed Mount Etna, or rather, the Monti Rossi (Red Mountains), which were formed following the lateral eruption of 1669. His tour of Sicily, the Grand Tour considered by many Central European intellectuals, especially French and German, as a compulsory stage of education, was now nearing its end. From Sicily he travelled to Messina, then to Naples by ferry to begin his journey up the Bel Paese, which he recounted almost 30 years later, with the publication of his diary, “Italian Journey”.
“[…] [we] set off early this morning on mules, turning our heads every so often to look at the view behind us. After some time we reached the lava zone. Unsoftened by time, jagged clumps and slabs stared us in the face, and the mules could only pick their way at random. On the first high ridge we halted and Kniep made a sketch of what lay ahead of us – masses of lava in the foreground, the twin summits of Monte Rosso on the left, and directly above us the forests of Nicolosi, out of which the snow-covered and faintly fuming peak emerges. […] The whole coast from Messina to Syracuse with its curves and bays lay open to my view or only slightly hidden by coastal hills […]”. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey, 1816