One of the most spectacular sites of Sicily is the Sicilian Volcano Mount Etna also known as Mama Etna, a beautiful mountain. It is also one of the most significant reasons for me coming to the island.
Mount Etna Facts:
It is one of the most active volcanos in Europe.
It is one of the most active volcanos in the world.
It is the only active Sicilian volcanos on the island.
In the winter you can ski on the volcano.
It lies on the East coast of Sicily.
It is the highest active volcano in Europe, excluding Russia.
It is over 3km in height.
It is 140 km in circumference.
It has the nickname: Mama Etna.
I missed the Volcano exploding under my aeroplane by only a few weeks.
Best Mount Etna Fact
The God Typhoon is meant to be buried under the mountain.
Back to a Sicilian Volcano
This Sicilian Volcano can be seen from a huge chunk of the island, and she is deceptively big.
It’s the clashing of the European and African tectonic plates that have created her. It still classed as activate, and roughly 3,329 meters in height.
Her history in written records goes back to 300bc. Although the creation of the island and volcano goes back to 500,000 bc. 35,000 years ago the Sicilian volcano erupted and sent ash as far as Rome. The Greeks mention her as do the Romans. The Titan Typhoon, defeated by the Greek gods was placed underneath and trapped forever. With the blacksmith, Vulcan residing and working inside the mountain. In 400/300 bc the Volcano erupted stopping armies advancing on the city of Siracusa.
The next eruption was in 120bc, which caused so much that the Roman government gave the city a tax exemption for ten years to help the recovery. Records, unfortunately, become sparse and we don’t have or hear much until 1669. Where mama Etna destroyed ten villages and reached the city walls of Catania. The number of deaths varies from under a 100 to 15,000. Records vary and depend on the event. 24 years later a major earthquake took place and destroyed a huge chunk of the same eastern area of the island.
To the more modern period, I’ve read of at least ten major eruptions taking place. One so large that the ash was landing in Libya and the eruption could be seen from space. Knowing all this, I still choose to live here along with the rest of the population and all of the tourists that come here.
It’s exciting in some ways to have such a magnificent piece of geography ready to erupt at any point on your doorstep. It can give you an extra sense of being alive as well as keeping you on your toes. I’m sure there is a Trump comparison there somewhere. Like Trump, I assume everyone wishes the volcano was able to tweet when it was going to blow up.
I’ve taken more precautions here, then any of the terrorist threats in London. Packing a waterproof bag, with equipment mentioned in a previous blog.
So last week I decided with my friend Marthe to visit Mama. It’s surprisingly easy to get to from Siracusa. The train gets you to the city of Catania for €6.50 single (Trainline Europe | European Train www.trainline.eu), and a bus to the midpoint of the volcano was €6. To buy your ticket, you go across the roundabout by the worlds longest zebra crossing. Catania is one of the closest cities to Etna.
You then need to find via don Luigi sturzo. With the AST bus ticket office.
You can find a friendly big and burly ex-Italian international rugby player in there, who’s very friendly and helpful.
You take the bus from the bus stop inside the roundabout and make you’re way to the volcano in comfort, with air conditioning and a relaxed atmosphere. I was not sure whether to be reassured or not with relaxed drivers. Our first driver was a great comfort, his knees up against the dashboard, and on the phone to friends and family, hands-free of course. We stopped in a small village, partway, at noon, and our relaxing journey continued, as we got off the bus, the sound of gunfire exploded all around us. Adrenaline surged through us; not knowing if it was terrorists or the Sicilian volcano. It was neither; it was locals casually setting off booming fireworks to let everyone know its midday.
The final stage of the bus journey was interesting, the Italian driver and his friend sat on the other front seat chatting and showing their eternal comfort of driving up one of the most active volcanos in Europe and the world. They then decided to switch seats, while the bus was moving. The whole of that experience made me question a lot how much I should care about driving up this Sicilian volcano. Should I be worried by these drivers or reassured that they feel so comfortable to act this way with an active volcano underneath them and us?
We continued up winding roads but nothing steep, like on other mountain adventures I have been on. More and more of the black solid rock streams could be seen. It snakes and steered through the green grass. We finally arrived at the southern section summit and could see there was the next part to climb.
Beautiful scenic view, clouds dancing in front of us as well as hanging over the beaches miles down below and into the distance. The next stage was to take the cable car up to the next point, and it was €30. I did find, quad bikes that would have been €50 each for 1 hour, with a guide. Something that I might do in the future. I will also point out that if you have the boots, you could walk to the top of the volcano, and there were plenty of people to do this. If you are intending to do this make sure you take the right equipment, and I would always recommend hiring a guide. The mountain is so vast and the terrain so similar in look, that it could be so easy to get lost. We took suntan lotion, changeable clothes, and bottles of water. As for clothing, it was 30c down the bottom of the mountain, as we climbed the temperature dropped, so shorts and T-shirt, soon turned into a hoody and waterproof jacket as we climbed each section. I would definitely recommend not wearing white shorts, a little dirty up there.
The cable car took us to the next section giving you an even better view and also a clearer view of the peaks, where smoke was billowing out of cracks and the gigantic cones. Once at this second stage, the mountain had a Martian feel to the landscape. Red rocks scattered the landscape, with black cooled lava streams shredding through the red landscape following gravity to the bottom of the mountain. We then discovered that there was another section to climb and that was to be reached via large, all-terrain, Mercedes anti volcano buses.
Huge grey metal-reinforced vehicles with tyres almost 6ft in height. Another €32 to get on board and be given a guide.
This is where it becomes interesting as the guided tours I had discovered online had varied in cost, and I had found prices for €38-80.
I was now beginning to think that the guided tours that you pay for online would have been worth it and money-saving. Taormina seemed like the cheapest location to go from to get to the mountain.
We paid, and the bus trundled it’s way through ash-covered roads, with the bus driver stopping to show ash-covered snow still sitting on the mountainside. We came to a stop in a small parking area with a couple of wooden cabins. Ushered out and into groups, a middle-aged man showed us the way to the most recent volcanic activity.
Huge cones the length and width of several football pitches, which went to a depth of 7/8 stories. A cone-shaped exit point for lava, where the guide claimed 50 million tons of lava had spewed from only a few years ago, and that just next to it was a river of now solid lava that scaled around the side of this cone. The whole experience was one of awe and wonder with a healthy dose of fear that it could go off again at any moment. We walked around the edge of the cone’s upper lip and once fully round we began our descent. The truck to the cable car, cable car to the southern point where some well-deserved grub could be procured. Overall, a most excellent journey, that felt scary, awe-inspiring and thrilling with a real sense of anything can happen. I can’t compare this to anything that I’ve tried before to get a similar set of emotions.
The best part was the realisation that from December this area turns into a ski 🎿 and snowboard park, with the added excitement of knowing you could be boarding along the mountain, seeing geysers and volcanic smoke drift past you at any moment. I intend to go again regularly from December to April.
Next week I will be in Rome, so I am considering releasing one chapter from one of the books I’ve been working on.
If you enjoyed my adventure with this Sicilian Volcano, I have a book available on Amazon:
Or if you would like to learn more about living on the island you can follow me on my Youtube Channel.