Before the advent of electricity, the snow that fell on the mountains was an important resource, both for the preservation of food and for the preparation of granite and ice cream.
Ravines, natural pits and volcanic caves on Etna were often used to collect and keep snow for as long as possible. These cavities, together with those built specially by people for this purpose, were called “neviere”. The word “nivaroli”, on the other hand, referred to those whose trade it was to collect, store and transport snow.
Using special tricks, after the snow collected inside the cavities, the nivaroli would compact it with their feet and beat it with shovels until it was solid.
In summer, the frozen snow was divided into blocks and transported to the towns. For transport, the blocks of ice were first covered with ferns and chestnut leaves, then wrapped in sacks to better protect them from the heat and allow them to be loaded onto mules and carts.
In those days, the snow from Etna not only reached the nearby towns, but was even taken by ship to be sold in other parts of Italy, including Malta!