WHS: Mount Etna, Italy

Last time we were going over visits, we’d just stopped at Kotor on our way back to Albania to close off this road trip through the Balkans. And as we’d been to Italy a few times, but hadn’t ever made it to Sicily yet, we decided that was a good place to head next —

— so we did that and hopped in a rental car and headed directly to today’s World Heritage Site, the mythological home of Vulcan the god of fire, not to mention the Cyclops, according to Euripides:

Mount Etna

 

Mount Etna is an iconic site encompassing 19,237 uninhabited hectares on the highest part of Mount Etna, on the eastern coast of Sicily. Mount Etna is the highest Mediterranean island mountain and the most active stratovolcano in the world.

The eruptive history of the volcano can be traced back 500,000 years and at least 2,700 years of this activity has been documented. The almost continuous eruptive activity of Mount Etna continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other Earth science disciplines

The volcano also supports important terrestrial ecosystems including endemic flora and fauna and its activity makes it a natural laboratory for the study of ecological and biological processes. The diverse and accessible range of volcanic features such as summit craters, cinder cones, lava flows and the Valle de Bove depression have made the site a prime destination for research and education…

It’s the highest mountain south of the Alps and the highest active volcano in Europe, and looks pretty darn epic standing by itself looming over all Sicily on a sunny summer day like we had:

Mind you, being there in the summer meant we didn’t have the opportunity to go skiing. Wait, what? You can ski in Sicily? Why yes, yes you can. Which makes it pretty much the most active volcano you can ski on in the world, arguably after New Zealand’s Mount Ruapehu.

Usually you can take a cable car up and hike around and make a day trip out of it … but unfortunately when we were there, some portentous rumblings had close access out of bounds. So our first visit here we settled for admiring it from a distance, and scooted on north to see what alternatives we could fit into our quick Silician tour.

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p dir=”auto”>So when you come this way, make your Sicily plans flexible enough to accomodate any volcanic grumpiness — and check out The Essential Guide to Hiking Mount Etna for some tips!

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Alex Curylo

Alex

I go places.

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