Mount Etna, Europe’s Biggest Volcano

Imagine my shock and embarrassment when I suddenly realised, after 11 years in Sicily, I had never blogged about Mount Etna! Now I have finished clutching my pearls in horror, I am rectifying this oversight forthwith.

Mount Etna is Europe’s largest volcano, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is not only the biggest, but the eruptiest. (Made up word alert!)

I can pretty much guarantee that it will be smoking and bubbling out some stinky brimstone whenever you go. If it is too dangerous they won’t let you up, so don’t panic!

When you look at Etna in photos it looks black everywhere. When you are there, it is actually every color of the rainbow. The rocks are filled with so many minerals that you can pick up a fairly complete mineralogy collection.

Well I did, anyway. I brought home literally an entire backpack full of stones. It was far too heavy for me so I had to make Hubby carry it (I’ve no idea why he complained so much), and then I designed a rainbow rock display in a giant glass vase when we got home.

 

Mount Etna
This is my kiddo the first time we took him up Mount Etna: He was still in his nappy but very determined to run all around the rim

 

A trip up Etna, Europe’s biggest volcano and a very definitely live one, may become one of the highlights of your kid’s childhood. No matter how hot it is on the ground, it is always very cold at the top of Etna. You need an anorak or a coat! It is usually hailing or snowing even in August.

It is pricey to take the funicular railway to the top (50 euros per person last time I went) but for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is worth it. If this price seems too steep for you and your twelve bambini, don’t worry. There are other peaks and craters which are great fun too, and which you can access completely free of charge.

The benefits of taking the funicular railway are that you get to say you went to Mount Etna’s highest peak, that you had hail all over you, and that you were so cold you paid one Euro to rent an anorak to put on top of your anorak, which you took because the Sicilian Housewife told you to.

Please take safety seriously. They will not let you up there if the eruption is very active (as I said, it’s always erupting a bit) but there are sometimes places where the ground is hot enough to hurt your hands if you touch it.

It is all covered in loose stones and, contrary to the impression of some people I have met up there, they do not erect barriers in places where you could just slide off the edge!!! You are supposed to use your brain. It is generally very slippy everywhere. It is made of loose stones.

Etna is one of Sicily’s 70 nature reserves and this official website (LINK BELOW) is a goldmine of information. Sicilians cannot mention Etna without talking about the delicious foods that grow in the volcanic soil, so don’t miss the section called “Local products”. Look out in the nearby shops for honey, pistachio nuts, almonds, liqueurs made from those nuts, and fabulous tomatoes.

Parco dell’Etna

Here are some views from our last trip up Etna:

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And here is the Sicilian Housewife testing some “Etna Lava” liqueur:

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16 thoughts on “Mount Etna, Europe’s Biggest Volcano

  1. It was in one of its more peaceful states when I went up there in ’87 but it was such a grey day that it did all look black. What stuck with me was the denuded trees on the way up and down which reminded me of nothing so much as the French countryside during and after WWI!

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    1. Yes, they can look quite sinister can’t they? A reminder of how rapidly life begins and ends on a volcano.

      The main thing that struck me was a burnt out house half way up, with nothing but the roof, mostly buried in stones and all black, thinking how that used to be someone’s home.
      I was also marvelling at all the Greek tourists walking about taking selfies on the roof, wondering what they would do when it “unexpectedly” collapsed and they crashed to the ground???!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a brilliant video of Mrs Sensible walking over to a group of Italians who were cooking sausages over a steam vent.

    It was snowing and we were knee deep in snow. The Italians were huddled over the steam vent with their sausages on forks. They seemed a little non plussed when they realised Mrs S was watching them….
    Obviously invading another persons cooking area is not a very Italian thing to do, so in her very best English she apologised and returned to me, who managed to film it for posterity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We loved our day on Etna. We’ve been to Sicily 3 times and found ourselves always watching to get a good view. The best was on our quick evening dash from near Siracusa to near Palermo after the forgotten driver’s licence fiasco, when we approached Etna in a clear sunset.

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  4. Happy for your photos as when I visited 5 years ago, surrounded in thick fog, and could hardly see one foot in front of the other. Did take some lovely macro shots of those beautiful red rocks, and a few little samples for memories and gifts. Grazie.

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  5. Great! And at the top of the funiculare, did you drive up to the highest accessible peak with the Mercedes landrovers? Your stomach thanks you, I can tell you 🙂 What I find amazing: It is not only one big crater but a landscape of craters.

    And allegedly, Empedocles jumped into one of it. But the inferior gods didn’t accept his sacrifice and spit out his sandal from the crater …. Plato also went to Sicily in order to see “the craters”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I didn’t see any of the Landrovers. Maybe they didn’t have them when I went to the top… It was a pretty long time ago.
      I love the story of Empedocles. I had never heard that one!

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  6. Ciao! Mt. Etna is beautiful to look at from every angle. I love seeing smoke puff out lazily from the center. We haven’t seen a full blown eruption – which must be pretty scary. I am so intrigued by the houses built on that one side of the volcano, I guess the lava flows the other way, into the sea?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am always amazed about that. Apparently they keep rebuilding their houses where the lava may flow, just becauase they have always lived there and it is home to them. I guess they try to avoid the most likely areas for lava flow but as far as I can find out, it is all quite unpredictable.

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  7. I went up mount Etna about 10 years ago. It was way colder up there than on the beach, and everything was black and sulfur smoking up everywhere. I don’t know if the amount of sulfur was normal or not, but it erupted one week later…

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    1. It’s been different every time I have gone up, but there was always something puffing out of it! I am pretty sure you get more coming out when another eruption is on the way…

      Like

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