Mount Etna, Italy

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Mount Etna is not only the largest active volcano in Italy but in all of Europe. With a maximum elevation is almost 11,000 feet and a base diameter of 25 miles, Mount Etna in Sicily is the highest volcano in Europe.


In 1500 BC the volcano began erupting, yielding very rich volcanic soil to its slopes as well as the surrounding area where 25 percent of Sicily’s population resides. Based on the income from crops produced in the fertile soil as well as tourism, Mt Etna is responsible for the majority of the economy of Sicily.

Mount Etna erupting 2002, Sicily, ItalyThere have been over 200 eruptions since 1500 and the most devastating occurred in the spring of 1669. Lava began to flow at the beginning of March and never stopped until the end of April when it had reached the city of Catania, 18 miles away on Sicily’s eastern coast. Seventeen thousand people in Catania died and the city was destroyed. The catastrophic lava flow wiped out 85 percent of the population of Catania and also left 27,000 people in 14 nearby villages and towns without homes.

Mt Etna - View from Catania, Sicily, ItalyMt Etna Today

Volcanic eruptions occur frequently on Mount Etna, and this is nothing new, as Mount Etna has been erupting continuously for 3500 years, making it the volcano with the “longest period of documented eruptions in the world.” In 2011 there were 13 eruptions and there has already been an eruption within the first week of 2012.

For the past decade Mt Etna has been erupting every year and occasionally the ash cloud drifts to Catania on the coast. Frequently the Catania airport is forced to close due to the ash cloud from an eruption. Dominating the Sicilian landscape in the region of Messina, Mt Etna can be seen from distant locations and frequently is snow-capped due to its height.

Today much of Catania’s architecture is in a grey color having been rebuilt with lava rock. Ironically the volcano responsible for destroying the city is one of the reasons tourists choose to stay in Catania as a base for an excursion to Mt Etna.

Randazzo's cathedral, Sicily, ItalyLocal Interest

Several nearby towns are worth visiting due to the buildings made from lava rock. Linguaglossa lies at the foothills of Mt Etna and is a good location for excursions to the northern side of Mount Etna. The village itself was built from black lava and its main street, Via Roma, is unique with its heavy black cobblestones made from lava.

About 12 miles to the west is the nearby town of Randazzo, which has been nick-named “the black town” for obvious reasons. This is another example of a town which has been built from black lava rock and interestingly has never been damaged by an eruption from Mount Etna.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


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