The city of Paternò, in Sicily, is an ancient Italian municipality located on the slopes of Etna. It has a long and legendary history, which has its roots in pre-Greek times.
Many ancient and contemporary scholars have investigated the origin of the toponym “Paternò“, proposing various and different theories on what its meaning could be.
The etymology is probably Latin-Byzantine, this is because in Arab accounts (Al-Muqaddasi) there is already mention of “Batarnù” declaring that the name pre-existed the Arab Domination.
Paternò is renowned for its rich culture, vibrant city life and stunning natural scenery.
Visitors can explore its winding cobblestone streets lined with centuries-old buildings and monuments, and shop in its bustling markets filled with local produce.
Its proximity to Etna also makes it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking and exploring the beauties of nature up close.
The uphill downhill
On the road that leads from Schettino (a fraction of Paternò) to Santa Maria di Licodia there is a place known by the locals and famous throughout the province of Catania.
The setting is that of a semi-uncontaminated rural reality, just as there are very few left.
I’m talking precisely about the ascent and descent, a hill in which the force of gravity pushes upwards, defying the laws of physics.
The phenomenon is known by the name of gravitational hill and we can find around 90 places in the world where the same phenomenon occurs.
It often happens that someone, learning of the phenomenon, goes to the place putting the car on a slope with the gear in neutral and taking off the handbrake … as if by magic the car starts to go up leaving the people stunned.
What happens in this place
Obviously this is a question that arises spontaneously in the face of a paradox like this.
Let’s start with the popular legends:
One often hears a story related to this place about two brothers who used to steal oranges in the surrounding grounds. One day the two brothers, after raiding some land nearby, had fallen asleep in the car in this very place.
Cruel fate meant that it began to rain profusely, increasing the water level and the canal that runs along the road collapsed, thus creating a river of water that dragged away the car of the two brothers who died.
Legend has it, in fact, that it is the prankster spirits of the brothers who push the cars up.
Another version sees as the protagonist a girl who is said to have died always dragged by the flooded stream, to avoid the same end to the people that now pass by the hill it is said that it is the ghost of the girl who pushes the cars without brakes against the force of gravity.
Many stories say that some people saw the girl’s ghost wandering around the area around 2 in the morning.
Once the legends are finished, it is time to analyze the scientific point of view.
What Science says
The scientific explanation for this phenomenon is that what happens is nothing more than an optical illusion that leads to perceiving what is actually a descent as an uphill stretch of road.
This phenomenon almost always occurs in places that have a steep slope just like in this case, but a simple water level is enough to explain how the slope actually is a downhill.
There is nothing mysterious even if today there are still many people who (especially at night) visit this place, some to experience the strange force of gravity, some in search of the spirit of the young woman.
Surely this place is known by the young people of the Catania hinterland, known as a mysterious place where strange things happen. It remains many times unknown by people who live next door. Setting aside various legends and stories, it remains a particular experience (given the optical phenomenon) that I would recommend anyone to try.