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Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomeSicilyCataniaMount Etna, Sicily Wine Tour: Fun & Games Until Police Stop

Mount Etna, Sicily Wine Tour: Fun & Games Until Police Stop

Read any guide to Italy and you will find no mention of dealing with the police. Ask any local and you will learn that police encounters with tourists are rare. That wasn’t the case for me. In Naples, I was stopped by an undercover cop. In Sicily, I was shaken down for 50 euros by ‘government officials’. Before I get to the incident in Mt. Etna, let me describe one of the best days of this trip, the wine tour up the biggest active volcano in Europe.

The Panda began at the base of the mountain at 2PM and attempted to reach the summit before 5PM when most of the wineries closed. Directions are not needed. Simply go up the mountain and look for vineyards along the way.

Mount Etna Sicily Wine Tour

Milo (Bottom of Mt. Etna)

The first stop was the town of Milo which has the best white wines. We visited Barone di Villagrande. Reservations are not needed but are recommended. For 20 euros per person, we were able to sample a variety of wines and have a light lunch on the terrace.

a building with a stone wall and a stone wall with a stone wall and a stone wall with a stone wall and a stone wall with a stone wall and a stone wall with a stone wall and a sign on a wall a wooden railing and a barrel on a hill a green field with trees and mountains in the background a landscape with a field and trees a man behind empty wine glasses a table with food on it a group of bowls of food a man sitting at a table with wine glasses a group of wine glasses on a table a shelf with bottles of wine

Driving (Quarter Way)

It was really fun hustling up the mountain. I do regret that we did not have more time to spend in so many of the towns we passed along the way and to take more pictures of the vineyards.

a car driving on a road a field of plants with mountains in the background a vineyard with mountains in the background

Linguaglossa (Halfway or so) 

In a hurry, we hopped back in the Panda and made our way up the mountain. We passed a sign that said Gambino. It reminded of my legal idol, Vinny Gambini. We made an abrupt u-turn and headed up a small hill. There we found the Gambino Winery. Short on time, we asked how long they were open. The waiter said, “This is not a post office, we do not close at 5. Make yourself at home.” And that’s what we did. Bread and olive oil was provided along with countless bottles of wine. If we wanted more wine, we could help ourselves. There was no limit. This was less wine tasting and more wine consumption. I’m certainly happy we stopped in.

a large field of vines a group of wine glasses on a table a man drinking wine from a bottle a bottle of wine next to two wine glasses a table with wine bottles and glasses a group of wine glasses and bottles of wine a group of wine bottles on a table a table with wine glasses and bottles

Randazzo (The Top) 

Milo is known for whites and Randazzo is known for reds. Well past business hours, we gave up looking for another vineyard and luckily stumbled upon a small shop called Il Buongustaio in the town of Randazzo. This was the best find of the day. The owner let us sample whatever we wanted. Ready for a full glass, I purchased a bottle of wine along with the best cheese and meat tray. I’m usually not a fan of tomatoes but these were fantastic. With a beautiful backdrop, we drank and enjoyed ourselves.

a sign on a fence a statue of a man in a robe behind a fencea street with buildings and a street with a balcony a store front with signs and a face on the top a store front with a sign bottles of wine on a glass table a group of wine bottles on a table a store with shelves of food and wine bottles a group of wine bottles with numbers on them a man opening a bottle of wine a table with plates of food and wine a man pouring wine into a glass at a table outside a man sitting at a table with food and wine a plate of cheese and wine glasses on a tablea man and woman sitting at a table with food and wine a man holding a wine glass

The Journey Home 

Somehow it was very easy to find our way up the mountain. Going down was an issue. If you do the full hike up Mt. Etna, you come up one side and down the other. Following Google Maps, we took a different route that led us to a highway and a toll both that kept rejecting our coins. With traffic lining up behind us, I finally got it to work and away we went.

That stressful situation pales in comparison to what transpired an hour prior. As we were zipping down the mountain, trying to keep up with other Pandas that were driving at higher rates of speed, a man stepped into the middle of the road with a small sign that he raised in the air. We thought it was construction and began to slow down. Stopped, our Panda was approached by two police officers. One asked for our documents and the other stood behind the car. We gave him our American driver licenses and registration. As we sat there in suspense, I was wondering what to do if I was locked up abroad (even though I had written The Points Guy article on the subject). After fifteen minutes he came back to the Panda, handed us our driver licenses and said have a good night.

I have no idea what information he can get from my Arizona license or why we were stopped in the first place. I assumed, given my experience on the Palermo bus, that I was going to have to pay another 50 euro ‘fine’. That was not the case.

Back to the Insane Asylum 

After that sobering experience, we made it back to our sleeping quarters. What happened next was even more bizarre.


  • Channel your inner-alcoholic and start the day as early as possible. There are far too many towns to visit in only a few hours.
  • Get a list of vineyards ahead of time. We were lucky to end up at such great ones with no planning.
  • Bring a coat. It gets cold at the top.
  • Carry extra cash and your ID. Who knows if you will need it.


  1. You should have just pulled a DYKWIA on the cops. Show them who’s boss. Vincent Laguardia Gambini would have done that, I bet.

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