Visit Sicily and Visit Mount Etna natural park

A fascinating palimpsest of culture and natural wonders

Visit Sicily 

a crossroads and crucible of Mediterranean culture for a very long time. Visiting Sicily is a fascinating palimpsest in which Greek temples, Norman churches and Baroque palazzos emerge from the rich fabric. But it also has natural wonders aplenty, the hot smoking craters you can see on a Mount Etna excursion, the still undiscovered beaches of the southern coast or a sailing trip to the Aeolian islands and much more to discover. 

When visit Sicily keep on mind that parts of the island is on the same latitude as the North African coast, Sicily has a mild climate that makes it an attractive destination for most of the year, spring and autumn are sheer delight and though high summer (July, August) temperatures really do soar, sea breezes in coastal areas take the edge off the heat or the chilling breeze you can find up on Mount Etna. 

When to go to Sicily 

What the best time to visit Sicily, consider that Sicily has a much longer warm-weather season than northern and central Italy. Many times it’s possible to sunbathe and swim in the sea well into November, spring starts early and in many areas, the ground is carpeted with wild flowers from the end of February. 

Where to go in Sicily 

You have plenty of choices: the historic cities like Palermo, Catania or Siracusa, a much natural approach at the Mount Etna region with its volcanic landscapes, fertile wine country and picture-perfect, or maybe the beautiful Taormina; Ragusa, Modica and the other honey-hued Baroque towns of the south; the Greek temples of Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta; Roman sites like Piazza Armerina, the south coast of Sicily with miles of sandy beaches and secret rocky coves. And don’t forget to try everything in Sicily, food like the couscous of Trapani or the pastries of Noto and all the different wines produced on the island.

Natural Park of Etna

The Natural Park of Etna is the first that have be established between the Parks of Sicily in 1987, with its 59,000 hectares. It protects a unique natural environment surrounding the highest active volcano in Europe and promotes the environmentally development of local communities. With its forests, trails, unique landscapes, typical products and historic centers, the Park of Volcano Etna is an attraction for all type nature-lovers, hikers and for gourmand with local food specialities and lovely wine.

Etna guided tours, with experienced qualified Mountain Leaders that speaks perfectly more than one language. Mount Etna is a volcanic environment in permanent motion, so unique at every moment. The most beautiful sights to see and to discover on Mount Etna are the areas up to 2000 m above sea level with the wide variety of landscapes and the richness of the fauna and flora. There are no less than 300 lateral craters, 250 lava tubes and many centuries old forests and lava flows.

The summit area is a magnificent desert of pyroclastic ashes, sulfur and fumarole, very interesting to visit in case of real volcanic activity, in winter with hiking skis, snowshoes or snowboard. During summer we organize the summit visit of Etna by foot, mountain bike or by jeep 4x4. In the event of an eruption, the english guide, who's specialized and trained on volcanoes will accompany you safely to the nearest eruptive activity.

Outstanding Universal Value 

Mount Etna World Heritage Site (19,237 ha) comprises the most strictly protected and scientifically important area of Mount Etna, and forms part of the Parco dell’Etna Regional Nature Park. Mount Etna is renowned for its exceptional level of volcanic activity, and the documentation of its activity over at least 2,700 years. Its notoriety, scientific importance, and cultural and educational value are of global significance. 

Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active and iconic volcanoes, and an outstanding example of ongoing geological processes and volcanic landforms. The stratovolcano is characterized by almost continuous eruptive activity from its summit craters and fairly frequent lava flow eruptions from craters and fissures on its flanks. This exceptional volcanic activity has been documented by humans for at least 2,700 years – making it one of the world's longest documented records of historical volcanism. The diverse and accessible assemblage of volcanic features such as summit craters, cinder cones, lava flows, lava caves and the "Valle del Bove" depression have made Mount Etna a prime destination for research and education. Today Mount Etna is one of the best-studied and monitored volcanoes in the world, and continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other earth science disciplines. Mount Etna’s notoriety, scientific importance, and cultural and educational value are of global significance. 

The boundaries of the property are clearly defined and encompass the most outstanding geological features of Mount Etna. The property includes very little infrastructure: a few forest / mountain tracks, a number of basic mountain shelters along the main forest tracks, and over 50 small seismic monitoring stations and a scientific observatory. A buffer zone of 26,220 ha surrounds the property, including parts of Mount Etna Regional Nature Park, and two tourism zones. These tourism zones include accommodation (hotels, huts), car parks, restaurants, cafes, a cableway, chair and drag lifts for ski tourism, information points, and ticket kiosks for guided drives, hikes and horse/donkey safaris. 

The Parco dell’Etna (Etna Park) was established as a Regional Nature Park by Decree of the President of the Sicilian Regional Authority in May 1987. The property includes part of this Park, comprising the zone defined as an integral reserve. In addition, nine Natura 2000 sites overlap the property to various degrees, providing additional protection for 77% of the area under European legislation. 

The regulations provided within the Decree provide for adequate protection of the key values of the property. Since the completion of a land acquisition process in 2010, 97.4% of the property’s area is in public ownership (region or communities). In contrast, 56.6% of the buffer zone is privately owned. 

Ente Parco dell’ Etna

The management of the property is coordinated by Ente Parco dell’ Etna, established as the managing authority of Etna Park by Decree of the President of the Sicilian Regional Authority in May 1987, working in close cooperation with the Regional Authority of State Forests and the Regional Corps of Forest Rangers (Corpo Forestale). Management is guided by a long-term management plan and Triennial Intervention Programmes. 

The property has no permanent population, is free of roads, and its use restricted to research and recreation. Vehicle access to the limited network of forest and mountain tracks appears to be strictly controlled (e.g. through gates and fences) and is only permitted for park management purposes and authorized activities such as research and organized 4x4 drives on the main track from the tourism facilities in the buffer zone to the INGV observatory. Except for possible maintenance of the observatory, no construction projects are permitted or planned within the property. Public access to the top of Mount Etna may be officially prohibited for safety reasons, although this regulation has been difficult to enforce. Organized recreational activities such as mountain biking and horse / donkey riding require advance authorisation. Although they appear to be limited at present, they need to be well monitored and managed to avoid negative impacts such as erosion and disturbance of wildlife. No dogs are allowed in the property and illegal hunting appears to be under control. Low-intensity grazing is permitted and occurs in parts of the property in the summer season. Limited silvicultural interventions are implemented in the property to reduce the risk from forest fires and maintain access routes. Climate change has the potential to increase the risk of forest fires in the region and impact the species and communities on Mount Etna. Natural hazards resulting from the volcanic activity of the property will always pose a risk to certain features and facilities of the park and beyond. Strengthened park visitor facilities are needed, taking into account best practice and lessons learned at other comparable World Heritage properties.

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