Most visitors to Italy have heard of Mt. Vesuvius, arguably Italy’s most famous volcano. It’s famous, of course, for having buried the town of Pompeii and the surrounding area in 79 A.D., thereby preserving it for all of us to visit and take pictures of later. But Italy is a country full of mountains, and Vesuvius isn’t the only active volcano in the country. In fact, it’s one of three, the largest being Mt. Etna (3350m) on the island of Sicily.
Mt. Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe, one of the more active volcanoes in the world, and yet thousands of people live on its slopes and in the surrounding area. Etna has erupted most recently in November of 2006, though the volcano is considered to be in “an almost constant state of eruption.” The most destructive eruption in recent history was in 1669, which lasted 122 days and destroyed several villages.
Despite all this destruction, Mt. Etna is still a popular hiking and skiing spot!
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To pay a closer visit to the mountain, there are two ways to get there – from the south, and from the north. The southern route is the easier option, with a daily bus from Catania. There’s a cable car operating daily from 9am until 3:30pm which climbs to 2600m, and in the summer months 4WD vehicles then take you close to the 3000m level. In the winter there is no transport beyond the cable car, because you’re supposed to ski back down!
From the north, there are several ski lifts at Piano Provenzana – though it’s an hour’s walk from the lifts to get anywhere near the top. In summertime, the lifts aren’t operating, but the 4WD vehicles are. In all cases, remember to check the local tourist offices for the most current information when you arrive if you’re interested in making a trip up the volcano, and ask about hiring a local guide as well.
For more Etna fun, you can read about one person’s experience hiking on the mountain last spring, check out the Mt. Etna webcam, some pictures and video of Etna eruptions, and some photos of the October 2006 eruption.