Tutto ciò che la natura ha di grande,
tutto ciò che ha di piacevole, tutto ciò che ha di terribile
si può paragonare all’Etna
e l’Etna non si può paragonare a nulla.
D. Vivand Denon, Voyage in Sicilie
Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, is the natural attraction that inevitably pulls in the largest number of tourists in Sicily, who come a bit from all over the world. More than 3200 meters high, visible from much of eastern Sicily, imposing and sly, it often gives spectacular fire, with lava fountains dozens of meters high that illuminate the cool Sicilian nights.
White in the winter and black in the summer, it brings along its slopes signs of the drama of its power. Dotted with small hills, once active craters, now covered with thick vegetation, the whole territory of Etna (60,000 acres) has always been the object of attention by the Region of Sicily, who established the Etna Park in 1987. Since 2013, the Sicilian Etna is the sixth UNESCO World Heritage site.
To enjoy, to learn and to live, Etna is an experience and a thousand emotions that you cannot do without.
The Park of Etna
Extraordinaryin itscombination of thevolcanic environment, snowy landscapesin winter timeand the presenceof vegetation typicalof the Mediterranean, Mount Etna leaves those lucky enoughto visit it speechless.
Established in 1987 by the Region of Sicily, Mount Etna covers area of 60,000 hectares, where inside there are many species of plants and animals, 20 municipalities and a natural setting of exceptional beauty.
At the top of the volcano, the low temperatures and repeated castings do not allow the existence of plants. At lower altitudes, sporadic patches of gorse are the prelude to the beginning of the flora of Mount Etna: pine trees, beech, birch, chestnut and oak are just some of the specimens that inhabit the forests of Etna. Descending a portion of about a thousand meters, there are numerous orchards in which apples and pears represent the tastiest fruits.
From 500 meters to sea level, however, the landscape is typical Mediterranean, with expanses of citrus fruit and prickly pears, along with almond and olive trees that characterize the landscape.
Rich and varied fauna present within the Park of Etna. The golden eagle is a most beautiful bird of prey but also the most difficult to see because of the small number of specimens.
There are a considerable number of martens, weasels, dormice, foxes of Etna, hares and porcupines. Among the birds are the hawk, buzzard, kestrel and peregrine falcon, while among the nocturnal birds are numerous barn owls, the horned owl, the tawny owl and the owl as well as ducks and herons present along some stretches of water.
The genesis of the volcano
The first manifestations of volcanism in the Gulf pre-Etnean, would have occurred about 600,000 years ago in a geologically complex area, between the African and Eurasian tectonic plate. The volcanic activity of this period was characterized by the emission of very fluid lava material (similar to the modern lavas of Hawaii), coming from deep faults in the earth’s crust.
These types of volcanic activity continued for some time until, about 200 thousand years ago, volcanic activity was concentrated in a narrow area, in what is now the Mount Calanna, near the village of Zafferana. This Mount ceased its activity about 80 million years ago, but the new mouths continued eruptive phenomena: volcanoes were formed so called Trifoglietto I and Trifoglietto II.
Their eruptive activity was very different from the previous ones: the viscous lava was emitted with terrifying explosions that, in about 20 thousand years, managed to fill the surface of the Gulf’s today pre-Etnean, actually giving life to the grandiose form that today distinguishesMount Etna.
After their eruptive activity, the two craters collapsed on themselves due to the emptying of the magma chambers: the collapse gave rise to what is now the Valle del Bove, where lava flows often end their run without causing concern to the communities on the foothills.
The opening of the crater of the Mongibello, approximately 34 thousand years ago, was the last phenomenon of the volcanic constitution of Etna. The lava, sufficiently fluid, is a relatively concrete danger for the population that now lives with the volcano. Rather than the possible dangers of a possible eruption, the locals prefer to tell of its beauty and its colors, fragrances and show that Etna offers at any time of year.
The most famous eruptions
The eruptions of Etna have had dramatic implications even in ancient times, as evidenced by the historical tales of 475 BC.
During the Middle-Ages, however, several towns were destroyed by lava in 1169 and 1329.
Themost catastrophiceruptionoccurred in1169,when the armsoflavadescendedon the entireeastern side,until they ended their course in the watersof the Mediterranean,not before it hadsurroundedthe bastionof the Ursino Castle, once an outpostof the sea.
Of the eruptions closer to our days, in the ‘70s the lava destroyed the volcano observatory, while 9 tourists were killed by being too close to the central crater during the eruption.
In 1992, Etna gave some concern to the citizens of Zafferana who saw the lava arrive a few kilometers from the town. To cope with the various fronts of lava, it wasnecessary to have the armyintervene: high amounts of containment and explosives charges enabled the avoidance of major threats to the population.
In 2001 and in 2002 to stop the path of the lava, facing south towards Nicolosi and on the north side of Lingfield, there was once again the intervention of the intervention teams to attempt to resolve this issue without further consequences to the citizens of the foothills, though it became impossible to save the cable car lift.
Etna throughout the year
The most surprising feature of Etna is that any time of the year is perfect to visit and spend a wonderful day in contact with nature.
The winter is the perfect time for those who love to ski or play around in the snow. From an altitude of a thousand meters, the volcano is colored white with black volcanic rocks that underpin the whiteness of the snowy expanses. The weekends are usually taken by assault by tourists and locals alike: both on the north and in the south, there are several ski resorts as well as accommodations for those who want to spend more than a day at high altitude.
The spring brings milder temperatures that allow spending the whole day at high altitude. Nature is reborn and this is the period in which it is usual for the local people spend joyful days immersed in nature. The more athletic can instead enjoy the natural cycling paths or excursions and hiking through the woods of Mount Etna.
Summer is the season when at high altitude thousands of tourists come to escape the heat of the city. During the tortuousclimb,the lava flows that have occurred over time due to the diversity of color can be observed. Arriving at about an altitude of 2,500 meters on the south side, you get to the Monti Silvestri, ancient craters where you can admire the view plane that covers much of the south-eastern coast of Sicily. All around, the absence of vegetation and the presence of dark lava rocks make it seem to many that they are confronted with a lunar landscape.
During the fall Etna gives its best fruits: it is the period of chestnuts, collected in mass by many families that on Sunday go up the Mountain. The small fruit crops give juicy and delicious products: from tasting the apple of Etna, juicy and exquisite in all its many varieties. But this is mainly the period in which many fans besiege the woods of chestnut and oak trees in search of delicious chestnuts and porcini mushrooms, an excellence of Etna and top-notch ingredients in most piedmontant restaurants.