Etna is 3233 meters high; it has a typical volcanic landscape, with solidifed "rivers" of lava. It is used for skiing in winter, so be prepared for the cold at this altitude, even in summer. Even in good weather in summer, the top of the mountain is usually covered in cloud, obscuring the wonderful views.
One bus a day runs to and from Catania and Nicolosi, to Rifugio Sapienza about 1400m below the summit on the south side, giving you enough time for a trip up the mountain and a wander.If you have a car rented, use the "Etna South" highway, starting in Giarre. It leads in soft windings up to approximately 1900 meters where you`ll find parking lots and a very good restaurant, offering a famous "Vulcanoe Pizza"
While we were in Catania Mount Etna's lava was flowing as we saw numerous news reports on the subject so we were really pumped about seeing it. We set out for Mount Etna really without a definite route there heading in the general direction thinking that surely there would be many signs pointing us in the right direction.
Well this worked for a while until we started driving through the many small villages on the way. The signs became confusing, so we turned to the satellite navigation system thinking it would lead us to the mountain, but there was not really a destination to enter in coordinates for it to guide us. So we entered something close.
Anyway we eventually made our way toward the volcano but ended up on the Etna Nord side which wasn't the right side to be on to get an upclose view. So we headed back to find Etna Sud.
Etna Sud is the route to take and we eventually weaved are way up the mountain on some serious winding roads with dropoffs. When we reached the area with the cable cars to the volcano everything was closed already and it was getting late probably almost 7pm.
So unfortunately we missed out on seeing the lava. But I have heard that you can get a sample of the lava and they will stamp it with Mt. Etna Catania".
There are various trips you can do with Mt Etna, from taking a train around the base of the volcano to actually trekking to the very rim, encased in steam & sulphur. Guide took about 10 of us up, cost $55 euro each. Very informative, appeared to be multi lingual, funny - overall entertaining, also safe. Approx time for tour was about 5 hours.
Recommend hiking boots, Walking pole/s, Sunglasses. beany and all weather jacket because the weather does change, anything that stops rocks getting in your boots, I ended up with half the mountain in mine!.
sicily has ancient roots on different cultures , you can breathe the history just walking in the streets of palermo or watching segesta and selinunte greek temples. In catania you can see lots churches from '700 d.c. Nature is nice and the woods near catania -messina are beatiful places to rest. ( parco del'etna e parco dei nebrodi)
http://www.parks.it/parco.nebrodi/gui.html (on line shop for park guides)
http://www.parcoetna.ct.it/ (etna - volcano)
Via Etna is the place to promenade on a Sunday or on sunny evenings. Families, couples, groups or teenagers and,on one occasion, motley groups of rugby fans stroll gently down the pedestrianised lower end of the street.
Choose a cafe to do some serious people watching.
Watching the results of the most recent eruptions on the slopes of Mt Etna yourself, is a very impressive thing to do. You can go there on an organized excursion or by your own transport. Circumstances near the summit change by every eruption. When we were there (May 2002), 4 wheel drive vehicles were touring up and down the slopes to get you as close to the summit as considered safe by then. This service ran in stead of the cable car, which is still mentioned in many books, but was destroyed in the 2001 eruptions. After the eruptions later in 2002, so I understood, the 4WD service has ceased operation too.
For more pictures click here to see our travelogue on Mount Etna.
Go up to Mount Etna! Get as close as you can to the top, that is if the volcano is not erupting!
You can find standing snow on Etna in the winter. I was up there in January of 1988 and had the first full-blown snowball fight I had since leaving home a year earlier. Of course, being from Minnesota, I had an advantage over my Sicilian friends!
Mount Etna has a substantial hiking trail known as the Giro dell'Etna which is a 70 km route around the volcano and which can take generally 4/ 5 days to complete. Due to its altitude, when its baking hot on the beach, it can be a lot cooler on the hillside and downright cold at night. Visit the Agency for Provincial Tourism offices (APT) at the airport, central train station or in Catania for details of the route and locations of the Rifugio (huts) for overnight stays.
Although the tallest active volcano in Europe at over 3000m, the lava flows throughout history, have caused little destruction or death and amounst the locals it is called "the frieindly giant"
For those who do not wish to break into a sweat hiking on the trials you can alway book a room at the Holiday Palace Hotel in Nicolisi
http://www.holidaypalacenicolosi.com/index.html which have rooms with magnificent views of the mountain especially in the evenings.
The Etna has different craters and has two main accesses north and south. One of the craters is supposed to be likely to explode at any time.
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