Mount Etna. Many believe it’s the most rugged part of Europe. You can really experience Mother Earth’s fury here. But you have to have seen Mount Etna, and moreover, you should climb it. It’s the best way to really appreciate this incredibly active volcano.
Mount Etna was formed when two tectonic plates crashed into each other: this is where the African plate and the Eurasian plate meet. The African plate slips under the Eurasian one here, and this happens with lots of violence.
You can walk to the highest crater, which has the beautiful name ‘Cratere Nouova’, but you can also take a cable cart that will take you up the first 2.500 metres. From there it’s about a four-hour round trip.
You can climb both the north and (the more popular) south sides. Keep an eye out for the (often ancient) vineyards around you as you climb, and don’t forget to raise a glass to your efforts when you’ve made it back.
Several craters on the mountain are evidence of Mt Etna’s many eruptions. Most of them are dormant, but a few on the very top are still active. According to scientists, one of the largest eruptions of the last 20 years took place in late 2015, with ash clouds that reached as high as 7 kilometres. UNESCO decided to put this natural icon on its World Heritage List.
You can walk around unsupervised around the lower parts of the mountain, but you must have a guide with you to reach the crater. Not just because of the weather conditions (there can still be snow here in spring), but because the volcano could suddenly come to life. A guide will be able to recognise the early signs, and will only go up if it’s relatively safe. We say relatively, because it’s still an active volcano!
How do I get there?
Thanks to its enormous size, Mt Etna dominates the local landscape. You can see and reach it from the large city of Catania (south-east of the volcano) as well as Taormina (to the north-east of Mt Etna).