The origins of the Etna guides are not certain. The first news dates back to the end of the 18th century, already at that time, travelers' visits took place in the company of guides, who knew perfectly the secrets of the "Great Mountain." Among them there is still memory of such a Biagio Motta, known as the "Cyclope" because of its stature, and which in 1776, by a French traveler, "Roland de la Platiere" was described as follows:
"A tall man, about 50 years old, has a human footprint in appearance, a severe air with a venerable one; Walking in front of great steps, without speaking words, answering briefly and precisely to every question ... "
Generally, these "guides" were shepherds, hunters, cutters who knew well the pitfalls and paths of such a diverse and vast territory. They were not regulated, so their performance was improvised, they had to demonstrate physical and moral skills in order to gain the confidence of travelers who had, in addition to the adventure spirit, a good deal of prejudice, to the point Brydone said: " We found the people who live on the mountain of such wildness and ways as incurable as I have never seen them "or as Eliseo Reclus in his travel report" Sicily and the eruption of Etna in 1865 "commented : "... and there is no other risk to us than strangers passing Nicolosi if not to be assaulted and stripped of gossip, guides, and ostriches.
The greatest travelers, returning to their homes, divulged the diaries of their travel experiences in Southern Italy to the great intellectuals of northern Europe with plenty of news, curiosity and images portrayed by their designers, sometimes denigrating, but many Sometimes exalting the natural beauty of Sicily and in particular of Etna. A detailed description of the majesty of the volcano, its eruptive manifestations, the peculiarity of environments that only Etna can offer; The woods, so varied of endemism in the three great vegetation regions, the skiing, the lava desert mixed with lapilli and ash of the high regions, the central crater unfathomable with the everlasting plume of smoke, the ridiculous villages perched on its sides, rich in History for the continual struggles against the volcano sustained by ethnically versatile and intuitive men, disobedient and fertile, cowardly and provisional, who have always been able to maintain a strange relationship of hatred and love with the great mountain of fire.
The dissemination of these news, together with the reforestation of the natural sciences and the presence of the utmost expression of vulcanology, in the brothers Gemmellaro, made Nicolosi entertain a fair number of travelers. Thus, in the country, the need to create the first forms of accommodation with the first inns, taverns and all the services that could be of assistance to the needs of people who venture to discover the volcano (small traders, artisans, etc.) ..) So speaks of Nicolosi, Eliseo Reclus, always in his travel report: "... the village can boast of two hotels that digrade each other in Sicily for a relative lack of comfort and for the comfort that they find."
Mario Gemmellaro, therefore, as an interpreter of the needs of travelers seeking assistance from people capable of accompanying them, had the idea and organized since 1804 the Etna team of guides and mules, expert acquaintances of the hard paths of the volcano .
The people who were to be guided were recruited for personal knowledge directly by the brothers Gemmellaro, choosing them among those who for the physical capacity, moral straightness, honesty and mountain knowledge, guaranteed prestige and security so that he could entrust the customers who They addressed.
The guide independently selected the route to be offered to the customer, and in relation to the number of participants and the baggage of the same, organized a garzoni service with the aim of carrying the luggage of the customer, in case the excursion departed Walking from Nicolosi, or collaborating with the group of mule grooms, in case the travelers demanded the trip to the back of the mules. The service of these animals and their conductors, as a rule, ended up with the arrival at the "Gratissima", a small shelter for travelers, at the base of the terminal cone, along the road that usually ran by climbing from Nicolosi.
The activity of the guides continued under the aegis of the Gemmellaro and their successors for about 70 years.
In 1875 Catania founded the first Sicilian section of the "Italian Alpine Club". The section's executive board received the results of the Alpine Conference held in Domodossola in 1870, where Abbot Garret addressed the issue of organizing guides and carriers and the need to regulate the functions
They and the rates. The central counselor, Orazio Spenna, included this proposal in the points on the agenda of the same congress and the assembly agreed to mandate the individual sections to compile, according to the needs and needs of their district, a regulation. 1877, two years after its establishment, a regulation was made for CAI guides and carriers Of the section of Catania. The guides of Nicolosi, thanks to CAI, acquired the identity that we still know as "the guides of Etna", as well as having the gratitude and gratitude of millions of visitors who for almost two centuries have been Helped to unveil the secrets of our great volcano. In the same year, it was the first group of Guides and Garrigues formed by those people who, however, turned to the organization of the Gemmellaro and which in turn were divided into two groups, The first named "Etnee Guides" belonged to: Contarino Antonio (leader of guides), Gemmellaro Giuseppe, Carbonaro Antonino, Consoli Salvatore, Anastasio Giuseppe, Costanzo Vincenzo, Leonardi Antonio, Leonardi Alfio, Gemmellaro Antonio, Galvagno Pietro and Gemmellaro Salvatore Suitable for accompaniment in the high regions of Etna up to the top of the central crater; The other group, called "Guides for the Red Mountains", belonged to: Salvatore Carbonaro (leader of the guides), Antonio Contarino, Gaetano Rizzo, Salvatore Chita, Giuseppe Anastasio, Carmelo Chitè and Nunzio Contarino, but limited to accompanying Up to the summit of the Red Mountains. It was thus a time of improvisation. The guides, having a regulation, were provided with a uniform, hat, and coat of arms, so that the traveler would be able to rely on people, however, recognized or recognizable, also because the signs of belonging to This category, went hand in hand with the whole of Italy, with the emergence of the various sectional and regional committees. At present, the Etna guides, the only figures authorized to accompany the LR 28 of 6/4/96, are part of the Regional College of the Alpine and Vulcanological Guides of Sicily