Located on the Italian island of Sicily, Mount Etna is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world due to the fact that it frequently erupts and has a large number of eruption styles.
The bleak lava wilderness around the summit of Etna is one of the most memorable landscapes Italy has to offer. The volcano’s height is constantly shifting, depending on whether eruptions are constructive or destructive, and over the last century it has ranged from 3263m to the present estimate of 3340m. Whatever its exact height, Etna is a substantial mountain, one of the world’s biggest active volcanoes, and on a clear day it can be seen from well over half of Sicily. Some of its eruptions have been disastrous: in 1169, 1329 and 1381 the lava reached the sea and in 1669 Catania was wrecked and its castle surrounded by molten rock.
The Circumetnea railway line has been repeatedly ruptured by lava flows: nine people were killed on the edge of the main crater in 1979 and in 2001 military helicopters were called in to water-bomb blazing fires. This unpredictability means that it is no longer possible to get close to the main crater. An eruption in 1971 destroyed the observatory supposed to give warning of just such an event, and the volcano has been in an almost continual state of eruption since 1998, the most recent being in late 2002 when the resort of Piano Provenzana on the northern side was engulfed with lava.
There are several approaches to the volcano. If you have a car, you can enjoy some of the best scenery on the north side of the volcano. On public transport, you’ll just see Etna from the southern side, though this does at least get you pretty near the summit. There are also many Etna tours :))
However you go, at whatever time of year, take warm clothes, good shoes or boots and glasses to keep the flying grit out of your eyes.