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October 20, 2021

Etna, the highest volcano in Europe

Among the absolute symbols of the city of Catania and of the whole of Sicily is Etna, the most active volcano on the Eurasian plate. With its eruptions it has changed the surrounding environment and at times, it has been a threat to the settlements born on its slopes. Let’s get to know this volcano better and the beauties it can offer.

History of the volcano

The etymology of the term is still the subject of discussion today. Etna was known by the Greeks with the name “Aitne”, while the Romans called it “Aetna”. The indigenous origin of the term associated with the word “aith-na”, which means “fiery”, is not excluded.

This incredible volcano was formed 500,000 years ago due to the collision between the Eurasian and African plate, giving rise to the first underwater eruptions that formed the first volcanic cones.

Over the years there have been various eruptions, including some particularly significant. The longest is that of July 1614. The phenomenon lasted ten years and emitted over a billion cubic meters of lava, covering 21 square kilometers of surface on the northern slope of the volcano. The emptying of the “cave ducts” gave rise to a whole series of lava caves, which can be visited, such as the Grotta del Gelo, the Grotta dei Lamponi, the Grotta delle Palombe, the Immacolatelle and Micio Conti complex.

In 1669 the best known and most destructive eruption took place which reached and exceeded, on the western side, the city of Catania. He destroyed the external part up to the walls, surrounding the Ursino Castle and overcoming it created over a kilometer of new land. The eruption was announced by a very strong roar and by an earthquake that destroyed the town of Nicolosi and damaged Trecastagni, Pedara, Mascalucia and Gravina. A large amount of lava came out, which advanced inexorably burying Malpasso, Mompilieri, Camporotondo, San Pietro Clarenza, San Giovanni Galermo and Misterbianco as well as smaller villages heading towards the sea. The eruption lasted 122 days and emitted a volume of lava of about 950 million cubic meters.

On 21 June 2013, UNESCO declared Etna a World Heritage Site.

What to see: slopes and craters

Among the most interesting areas of Etna to visit there are certainly the Silvestri Craters. These are two huge extinct craters located on the southern side of Etna, on the side of Nicolosi. Their origin dates back to the 1982 eruption. It is still possible today to smell the sulfur smell of the craters and the heat of the volcanic stones. Other interesting craters are the summit ones. Specifically, there are three: the central crater (consisting of Voragine and Bocca nuova), the north-east crater and the south-east crater.

Also worth mentioning are the Satorius Mountains, which is one of the most fascinating destinations as far as Etna is concerned. We are talking about ancient craters that were formed during the eruption of 1865 at the base of Monte Frumento delle Concazze at about 1650 meters. Their name derives from the scientist Sartorius Von Waltershausen, one of the first to classify the main eruptions of Etna.

Another highly recommended destination is the Grotta del Gelo, known for the perennial presence of ice that has accumulated inside it for over three hundred years. This suggestive cave is considered the “southernmost” glacier in Europe, with a temperature that reaches – 0.6 degrees. The Grotta del Gelo is located in the Sciara del Follone and is located at 2030 meters above sea level, on the slopes of the volcano. Here, too, comfortable shoes and layered clothing are recommended for the different temperatures that can be found. It is advisable to be experts and to be provided with adequate equipment given the difficulty of the route.

Organized activities and excursions on Etna

Etna offers a wide range of possibilities for hiking enthusiasts, with the many paths and varied areas that it can boast. Of course you have to be trained on average and know your conditions well. Cento Sicilie organizes activities and excursions on the summit craters of Etna. Visit our page to get all the information and book your excursion.

Cuisine and typical dishes to taste on Etna

Etna offers various typical products depending on the area you are in. On the northern side, for example, main courses are the main dishes, such as grilled sausage and mutton and Randazzo stuffed kid. Among the cheeses, Piacintinu, ricotta, tuma and local pecorino deserve a mention. If you go to Linguaglossa, you have to taste the bean curd and mushroom polenta. Also excellent fruit, dried and not, such as apples, pears, almonds, pine nuts and strawberries. The north side of Etna is the richest in wineries with many vineyards that produce Etna DOC (Red, Rosé and White).

How to reach Etna by car

You can reach Etna by car, arriving at Rifugio Sapienza (a strategic point to then start visiting the volcano) from the provincial road 92 from Nicolosi or Zafferana Etnea. Furthermore, from Catania there are numerous connections by bus and train with the volcano. Finally, to reach a height of 2,500 meters starting from the Sapienza Refuge, it is advisable to continue by cable car.

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