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.
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.
Here are some views from our last trip up Etna:
And here is the Sicilian Housewife testing some “Etna Lava” liqueur: