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Mount Etna

Mount Etna World Heritage Site, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has defined the volcano as Icon of the Mediterranean, recognising the importance of Mount Etna renowned for its exceptional level of volcanic activity, and the documentation of its eruptions over at least 2,700 years. Mount Etna is a symbol of telluric energy, occupies a privileged position in the heart of the Mediterranean. Celebrated by the poets of Antiquity before being the object of modern scientific investigations, it is today better known than any other volcano. Everything contributes to give to this volcano and this country an exceptional value, its geological and geographical setting, the diversity of its eruptive phenomena, the nature of its environment, the number and the richness of the problems it poses. Volcano Etna notoriety, scientific importance, and cultural and educational value are of global significance.

Mount Etna volcano in Sicily

  • Age : 550 000 years
  • Height : about 3328 mt
  • Volume : about 500 km³
  • Type of volcano : shield
  • Last eruption : December 2018
  • Current eruptive activity : effusive, with moderately explosive phases (Strombolian, lava fountains and less frequent high ash columns)

 

 

Volcanoes are places of particular interest, rough and lunar landscape and fiery scenarios that arouse, together, fear and curiosity. Mt Etna stand-up more than others, for its size and for its almost incessant activity. It is visible from land and sea, and well known for its long history that crossed with the ancient Mediterranean civilisations.

The volcano has a conical shape covering an area of 1600 km2. It is bounded to the west by the river Simeto, to the north and east by the river Alcantara and by the coast of the Ionian Sea. The structure of the volcano consists of an irregular base formed by the products of the most ancient eruptions and a steep summit cone, called Mongibello. This name derives from gebel, a common Arabic term in the Sicilian toponymy, which means mountain.

In the summit area of the Mongibello there are four active craters called "Bocca Nuova", "Voragine", "Cratere di Nord-Est" and "Cratere di Sud-Est". At least one of these is almost always active, with emissions of lava or large fumaroles of gas and ash. The accumulation of new volcanic products,while is erupting and the frequent landslides to which the craters are subject, constantly change the shape and height of the summit of Mount Etna.

 

Visiting Mount Etna in Sicily 

The Etna tour should start along the south-eastern coast of Sicily, between Aci Castello and Acitrezza. Here you can see a series of rocks and islets, called the Islands of the Cyclops, partly formed by volcanic rocks much older than those of the Etna. In fact the first volcanic activity of Etna started underwater, afterwards the geological events and the erosion have transformed them into evocative decorations of the landscape. These islets, according to Greek mythology, would be huge blocks launched by the infuriated Cyclops Polyphemus to the ship of Ulysses, guilty of having blinded him with his only eye placed in the middle of the forehead.

When the Etna volcanic structure did not exist, the eruptions and effusive activity took place within a gulf that stretched in time between Peloritani and Iblei Mountains. Other volcanoes have erupted lava on the mainland, still distant from where Etna will later rise. Their remains are found in the two reliefs on which are established Motta S. Anastasia and Paternò. Everything changes over time, Sicily is in fact crushed by the African plate that has been moving for many millions of years to the European one. This convergence movement and the accumulation of lava and debris have, over time, shaped the current volcanic structure of Etna.

 

Ulysse et Polyphème by Jacob Jordaens
Ulysse et Polyphème by Jacob Jordaens

 

The relationship between Etna and Man

The volcano, apparently so hostile to settlements, has always offered a variety of resources that seem designed specifically for human needs since prehistoric times. Etna makes its entry into the literature thanks to the Greeks with the eruption of 475 BC. Pindaro described it in the mythical image of Typhoeus or Typhon. Another giant who wandered in the volcanic areas, which, imprisoned by Zeus under the weight of the volcano, he spat fire from his eyes and nostrils.

With time, the myths and legends ended, but the eruptions continued to leave their traces and to modify the volcano. But if you are wondering why do people live close to active volcanoes, you should know that the main reason is the rich volcanic soil. The region has been intensively cultivated for centuries. The land is planted with vines, vegetables, or flowers. Every square foot of this rich soil is used.

 

Climbing Mount Etna in Sicily

Etna is a volcano that adapts to all levels, perfect to visit with the family with simple and attractive routes, also excellent for those looking for definitely more demanding hikes and more intense adventures. There are several excursions in Sicily and Etna is one of the best, being the highest mountain on the island. Our excursions are led by official Alpine Volcanologist Guides, the only professionals authorized by the Italian law to lead groups on active volcanoes in Sicily .

With its forests, trails and unique landscapes the Park of Volcano Etna is an attraction for all type of nature-lovers, hikers and for gourmand with local food specialities and lovely wine. Mount Etna is a volcanic environment in permanent motion, so unique at every moment. There are no less than 300 lateral craters, 250 lava tubes and many centuries old forests and lava flows. It is a paradise for all of those looking for mountain climbing in Italy.

The summit area is a magnificent desert of pyroclastic ashes, sulfur and fumarole. Very interesting to visit while is erupting, but also in winter with hiking skis, snowshoes or snowboard. We’ve planned and studied severals Mount Etna hiking trails, our english speaking guide, specialized and trained on volcanoes will guide you safely to the most interesting places. Discover our excursions to live a moment full of emotion and strong sensations on the highest volcano in Europe.

 

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