Discovering Mount Etna

Discovering Mount Etna

The mount Etna is located in the north-eastern Sicily and it is the highest active volcano in Europe with its 3330 meters high. In 2013 it joined the UNESCO World Heritage List because “craters, ash, lava flows and the depression of the Bobe valley, make the Mount Etna a prime destination for research and education […]“.  The close context in which the crater stands out is really suggestive, surrounded by the Etna Park, a green and  protected area  thriving in terms of vegetation and local fauna.

Etna - Central crater v

Etna – Central crater [Photo credits Pietro]

The volcano between history and legends

The name of Muntagna or Mungibeddu, as it is called in Sicilian dialect, comes from Aitna, from the Greek verb “aitho”, which means “to burn”. Greek legends, reported also by Virgil, say that the giant Enceladus, rebelling against the Gods, was buried by Athena under a large mound of earth. He laid himself down under the island and opened his mouth to breathe, that it is today represented by the crater of Etna. According to the Romans instead, the God Hephaestus or Vulcan, God of fire and metallurgy and the blacksmith of the Gods, had set up his smithy inside the Mount Etna, where the God worked incessantly and received also the beautiful Venus, given in marriage to him by Jupiter, to have weapons and thunderbolts. The Anglo-Saxon legends tell about the Queen Elizabeth I of England: her soul was supposed to lie under the volcano because of a pact made with the devil for helping her to reign the Kingdom.

Etna craters [Photo credits Mario Cutroneo]

Etna craters [Photo credits Mario Cutroneo]

The volcanic activities

The Etna volcano started to shape itself around 570,000 years ago in place of a wide gulf, through the conjunction of the northern Peloritans mountains and the southern Ibleo plateau, which gave rise to the earliest submarine eruptions. Over the centuries the eruptive activities were often intense, counting about 150 large eruptions, until that one recently occurred during the night between 11 and 12 May 2015, which caused a long lava flow with smoke and ashes emissions. Some eruptions went down in history, such as that one of the 252, to be considered among the wonders of St. Agata. An year after the martyrdom of the Saint, the people from Catania carried her veil in procession as a sign of protection, to try to end the persistent volcanic activity. After this action, the eruption truly stopped. The shroud was kept in the Cathedral, and it is said that it became from white to red because of the contact with the Etna’s lava. Catania was partially spared even by the disastrous eruption in 1669, announced by a thunderous roar, and that destroyed  Malpasso, Mascalucia, many towns, the lake Nicito and the river Amenano.

Etna eruption

Etna eruption [Photo credits Mirko Chessari]

Not to be missed

Besides enjoying the fascinating lava flow from an adequate distance and admire the bright gushes that illuminate the Sicilian nights, visit the volcano Etna is a fantastic experience even in daylight. It could be a trip both for trekking and hiking, and also as a possible destination for skiing during the winter months. The panoramic view stretches over the whole Sicily to the island of Malta, and it is spectacular in every season. Absolutely to discover: the Valle del Bove, an eastern side valley  crossed by numerous canyons, the Cava del Ghiaccio, formed by a perennial glacier, and the Cave di Alcantara, to walk through supporting ropes. Not far from the Park of Etna there are also cities and interesting places from the cultural point of view: Catania, Taormina, Syracuse, Piazza Armerina and the Noto valley.

Etna - View from Taormina

Etna – View from Taormina [Photo credits Mario Cutroneo]

Are you looking for a hotel in the heart of Catania whose roof garden has a splendid view of Mount Etna? Find out where you can do it.