Mt. Etna is located on Sicily, the island being kicked by the toe of the boot of Italy. Mt. Etna is Europe’s most active volcano and is visible from all over the eastern part of the island. When my sister and I visited Sicily last spring we spent an afternoon walking around Mt. Etna.
Through the centuries, and when I say centuries, I mean going back long before the birth of Jesus, Mt. Etna has dominated life in Sicily. Eruptions from the volcano have buried cities and damaged towns that still bear the scars. It is surprising as you tour the island how often you will be reminded of the power of the mountain. And yet, her fertile soil has produced food for one of the poorest areas of Italy.
We took a bus up the mountain stopping mid-way at a little roadside stand where a family was selling locally produced honey near an old house. This was definitely a family run business without a hint of tourism about it. If the stand is open I encourage you to stop. It is much nicer than the touristy places you will encounter near the parking area further up Mt. Etna.
The house is worth a look since lava from a past eruption comes within 50 yards of the house. If you walk around the back of the house you will see just how close the lava came and just how destructive it can be. There is a wide swath of brown that looks a little like a rough landing strip for planes. Off to the side are trees where you can see goats wandering around.
A parking lot is located up the mountain, I have no idea if it is the mid-way point of Mt. Etna or not. I was surprised at how touristy the area around the public parking lot is. There were a number of little shops and restaurants selling very gaudy knick-knacks. In addition to trashy knick knacks trash in the form of soda bottles, candy wrappers and food cartons is everywhere. Someone needs to launch a clean up Mt. Etna campaign; the mountain deserves more respect than we are showing her.
Even with the tourist shops and sloppy people, Mt. Etna is worth a visit.
There are crater’s located all over the mountain. The landscape is as barren and stark as you would expect from a volcano. You can walk around the craters and through the lava fields.
Walking on lava is a bit of challenge as it is continually shifting. You need a good sense of balance or you risk a tumble. I would not want to fall in a lava field as the rocks are sharp and would do some damage to both bare skin and clothing. We were in tennis shoes which were adequate, but hiking boots may have given us more stability.
We went in May and they warned us that we would be cold. We weren’t. It was actually quite warm though we could still see patches of snow further up the mountain.
Unfortunately, we did not allow enough time to take the chair lift further up the mountain. It would have been better had we gone earlier in the day when visibility is better and we should have allowed more time to explore and hike.
There are all types of excursions available for people visiting Mt. Etna. There are hiking, biking and bus tours available. You can visit the mountain even when it is erupting. According to the locals Mt. Etna’s eruptions are very predictable since the eruptions take place only in certain areas.
I might be inclined to view the eruptions from further away, but then I am not as adventurous as some. If you go you can pick up a piece of lava to take home, it is far better than any souvenir you will find in one of the stores on Mt. Etna.