The hallmark of every little boy’s childhood is learning about volcanoes, building a paper-mâché model and watching its vinegar and baking soda lava erupt. Caullin, shown in the picture above, got to see up close how an active volcano can change the surrounding landscape into a scene from a science fiction movie.
The terrain looks like more like the surface of an asteroid hurtling through space than an Italian mountain side in some areas, while others a beautiful nature preserve. This is an extraordinary learning experience for the effects that volcanic activity can create on the environment. In the time of Greek Mythology, the one eyed giant, Cyclops lived on Mt Etna.
Mt Etna towers over Sicily at a height of 3350 meters to date. Volcano’s can surely be destructive but they also create; the height changes with each new eruption making Mt Etna taller and larger as lava is added. There is a train service that runs from the base in the town of Catania to Riposto on the mountain side. Additionally bus service is available from Catania up the mountain. The winter months offer skiing and the summer months have miles of hiking trails through beautiful forests. It is highly recommended to stop in the tourist office in Catania to check the current state of the volcano before heading up the mountain.
The temperatures are much cooler at the many peaks of Mt Etna. Brining additional clothing is a necessity. The winding roads provide a slow trip to the top. Numerous pull-offs are perfect for photo ops and different views of Mt Etna and beyond. The Mediterranean Sea is just off to the east. Along the road there is a house that is buried up to the windows in lava that can be explored, a favorite with children. At the highest point accessible by car is Silvestri Crater, one of the few places in the world that you can stand in a smoking volcanic crater. The air is frigid and misty with smoke, which adds to the presence of one of Mother Nature’s most powerful and destructive forces.
A good place to start your journey is in Rifugio Sapienza, a small village on the south slope of Mt Etna.
Self driving is my favorite option. You can stay as long as you like and stop at the many sights along the way.
Bus tours are available through Parco Regionale dell’Etna, Via Etnea 107, Nicolosi, tel: +39-095 914588.
The train is available at Via Caronda 352/A +39 -095-541250, in Catania off Viale Leonardo da Vinci
Where to Eat:
The restaurant at the top is no longer open. The last lava flow decided to stop in for lunch.
The best restaurants in the area are scattered throughout Rifugio Sapienza.
Where to stay:
A Youth Hostel is available in Nicolosi close by.
Hotels are available in Rifugio Sapienza
Azienda Provinciale Turismo Catania
Address:via Cimarosa 10 – 95124 Catania
Tel.: (095) 730 62 11