Its eruptions have always been spectacular, as well as magnificent. I am speaking about Etna volcano, one the most active volcanoes in Europe and one the best tourist attractions in Sicily and Italy. Etna is a mountain placed on the east area of Sicily, about a few kilometers from Catania, Siracusa and Taormina. It is also considered as the highest European active volcano with a height of about 3330 meters. The ancient name of Etna is Mongibello, a composite name formed from two Sicilian words: Mongi, that means mountain and bello, that means beautiful.
Etna, hence, means beautiful mountain and in fact, Etna is really a beautiful mountain to visit during a travel in Italy and Sicily. The origin of Etna dates back to the prehistoric era, about 500,000 years ago when an intense volcanic activity shaped the plate that today frames the North East coast of Sicily. This stunning volcano has a central conic crater and many lateral mouths called flanks that very often eject lava, fires, flames lapillus and ash. Even though they are very intense and awesome, these eruptions never endanger the inhabitants who live around the district of Catania, namely about 42 beautiful towns also called the district of the lava ( Il distretto della lava).
Etna volcano has had many eruptions during its long history, one of these even prevented that the Carthaginians conquered the nearest city of Syracuse. One of the most impressive eruptions of Etna occurred about 64,000 years ago, when, according to many scientists, the volcano caused the collapse of the main crater, by forming a large depression called Valle del Bove (The Valley of the Ox). Valle del Bove is the main tourist itinerary to follow when you visit Etna. This valley is for the most of its surface desert and blanked by ash, dust, lava stone and old ruins of the past eruptions. Surrounded by steep slopes, it is the ideal place to make trekking and excursions.
The average time to go across The Valley of The Ox is six hours. When you walk in this Valley, you come across a downward path that leads you to the main huts of Etna. The most important is the Rifugio Sapienza, about 1900 meters of height, a wooden mountain chalet that every days hosts thousands of tourists coming from all over the world. In the Rifugio Sapienza you can taste delicious Sicilian recipes, warm in front of the fireplace and sip your favorite drinks. Etna also erupted in 1669 and in 1693, but never caused the destruction of the Noto Valley, the Sicilian area entirely destroyed by an earthquake that had nothing to do with Etna.
For its beauty, Unesco added Etna Volcano in the list of the World heritages. Other recent spectacular eruptions happened in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 200, 2009 and 2012. The latest eruption occurred on December, 3, 2015. During the eruption in 2003, the power of lava caused the collapse of a wooden house placed in one of the sides of the mountain. This house, plunged in the middle of the lava, is still visible to tourists.
Even when Etna seems to sleep, in reality it is always ready to shake the bottom of the Earth and pull out breathtaking eruptions. This mount is also stunning without eruptions. You can always note smoke rings from its summit or flanks. This phenomenon always depends on the kind of lava emissions. Etna, indeed, can have both summit and flank eruptions. Sometimes, when the lava emissions are particularly intense, they can cause some inconveniences to the facilities in Catania such, for example, the closure of Fontanarossa Airport.
Etna, anyway, is one the most precious natural jewels that tourists must absolutely visit at least one only time in life. With a larger surface, Etna volcano also forms the Etna Park, a natural reserve surrounded by woods, trees, vineyards and orchards. You can also enjoy a spectacular view of Catania and Taormina from the top of the mountain or by the cableway. If you rent one of the many wooden houses on the Etna Valley, you can also walk along oak and chestnut woods and see a wonderful and little wooden church where you can also organize your wedding. You can visit Etna Volcano during all the year, but since the top of this area is filled with abundant snow in the winter, it is better you visit Etna in the spring, autumn or summer.
In the surroundings of Etna volcano, hotels and accommodations are pretty evocative. I remember that some years ago, in the spring, I and my husband booked a wood cottage amid lush green and a stunning landscape. A wood cottage is the best solution to enoy all of the allure of this big Sicilian volcano. You can book an accomodation like the one I described on this link.