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Mount Etna

Mount Etna

Sicily is full of surprises. Its highest mountain is, at the same time, an active volcano — the largest in Europe. With eruptions occurring at regular intervals, Etna constantly makes its presence felt. Fortunately, there is no danger to human life. Etna is a rather 'peaceful' volcano, not an explosive fire mountain. Towering over all other Sicilian mountains by more than 1300m/4250ft, the volcano at its summit reaches an elevation of ca. 3300m/10,825ft (height can change with summit eruptions). Climbing Etna takes one through varied climatic zones, each with its own distinctive vegetation. It is almost like taking a trip from Palermo to the North Pole. Subtropical orange and lemon groves give way to stands of oak and the southernmost beech forests in Europe. Up to an elevation of 2500m/8200ft, the ground is covered by a layer of thorny shrubs known locally as spino santo (Astragalus siculus). Lava beds void of all plant life extend from here to the peak, which is covered with snow for much of the year. In 1987 Etna became a regional park (www.parcoetna.com) and was placed under environmental protection. The Mount Etna 2013 was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list of places of "outstanding universal value".

 

 

In April 2013 the Prefecture of Catania, in accordance with the INGV and the Parco dell Etna, published a new set of regulations that define the access to the summit craters (see below).

 

 

www.flickr.com/photos/etnaboris/– amazing pictures from Boris Behnke, a Catania based german vulcanologist.
www.etnatracking.com – a lot of tracks complete with GPX-data.

New regulations

New regulations

In April 2013 the Prefecture of Catania, in accordance with the INGV and the Parco dell Etna, published a new set of regulations that define the access to the summit areas of the volcano. A so-called yellow zone was defined, which compromises the area area above the service track (north-south connection), that connects the area of Torre del Filosofo (2,920 m) with the area near the Volcanological Observatory of Pizzi Deneri (2,850 m) and includes the summit craters and the portion of the escarpment below the Southeast Crater until the Monti Centenari in the Valle del Bove. Subsequently four hazard and connected alert levels related to the varying eruptive activity were defined. While there is no eruptive activity and/or normal activity (degassing and steaming from the summit craters and other vents, and small occasional explosions with pyroclastic products launched only to the immediate vicinity of the vents) free visits are allowed, subject the conduct rules of the natural park, outside the "yellow zone" or within the "yellow zone" only if accompanied by certified mountain guides. In case of alert other rules apply.

Walk: Monti Rossi

Walk: Monti Rossi

On clear days the view from the rim of the Monti Rossi takes in the whole Etna massif, the Gulf of Catania, Syracuse in the south and the Monti Erei inland. These craters were formed during an eruption in 1669; there’s a fresco depicting this event in amazing detail in the sacristy of Catania’s cathedral.

 

 

Described as walk 1 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/

Walk: The summit craters and the Valle del Bove

Walk: The summit craters and the Valle del Bove

The expulsion of gases and vapours is part of the normal volcanic activity of Mount Etna. When the magma column rises higher in the vent, additional magma particles are dragged along, which cool off in flight and solidify as bombs, scoria or ash. Eruptions happen frequently and last for hours, days, weeks or months. And it’s not only the summit craters on Etna that erupt — chasms open out along the mountain’s flanks and more cavities (called bocche) form along the chasms. Hundreds of these lateral craters cover Etna’s slopes. Bocca Nuova, one of the four active summit craters, dates from an eruption in 1968. The Cratere di Sud-Est changed shape dramatically during frequent eruptions in 1998-2012. Before you ascend, take local advice and read also about the new regulations above!

 

 

Described as walk 2 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/.

Walk: Pietracannone and the Valle del Bove >>track on Google Maps



The scenic variety you encounter on this easy walk is extraordinary. The route takes you through mixed deciduous woods — a wonderful display of colour in autumn — up to the rim of the Valle del Bove. From the summit of Monte Scorsone you enjoy views into this giant caldera and towards Etna’s summit craters. In the east the Costa dei Ciclopi is visible, while to the north the view stretches over Taormina and the Strait of Messina as far as Calabria.


Described as walk 3 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/.


Walk: Pietracannone and the Valle del Bove on a bigger screen

Walk: Monti Sartorius >>track on Google maps



The seven volcanic craters of the Monti Sartorius (Monti Sartorio) lie all in a row like buttonholes (bottoniera). They date from an eruption in 1865 and bear the name of the scientist who studied them, Sartorius von Waltershausen. Due to the altitude (the walk runs at 1600m / 5250ft above sea level) the vegetation only took hold again timidly. But in sheltered areas you come upon little birch copses. The bright trunks of the birches (Betula aetnensis) contrast strikingly with the black lava. The most wonderful light effects are to be seen in autumn, of course, when the leaves are gold. A nature trail, marked with (now fading) yellow tags on wooden posts, takes you from viewpoint (punto osservazione PO) to viewpoint through this fascinating volcanic landscape. Parking might prove safer at the nearby Rifugio Citelli. Take your children on this very nice stroll!


Described as walk 4 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/.


Walk: Monti Sartorio on a bigger screen

Walk: Pizzi Deneri and the summit craters

Walk: Pizzi Deneri and the summit craters

Mount Etna is not only an active volcano, but a very high mountain, for which every mountain climber must have respect. Both facets of the mountain will become clear during this hike. As tough as the ascent to the Pizzi Deneri is, the visual rewards are great. Etna is not only the highest mountain in Sicily, but it rises in splendid isolation, so on a clear day the panoramic view is astounding. To approach Etna’s summit craters is an awesome experience: they constantly gasp and smoke, and the air reeks of sulphur. Irregular explosions make the ground tremble and shudder. Before you ascend, take local advice and read about the new regulations above!

 

 

Described as walk 5 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/.

Walk: Monte Nero and Grotta del Gelo >>track on Google Maps



This walk crosses one of Etna’s most eye-catching lava fields. You’ll most frequently come across broken-up lava blocks, the so-called 'AA'-type lava (the terminology comes from Hawaii). Its surface solidified during the eruptive flow, but then cracked again and broke up into rough strata. You will also see some pahoehoe lava — quite a rarity on Etna. This latter lava is more fluid. Like a gigantic mass of runny dough, pahoehoe lava forms interlaced coils and billowing rolls. Even after the outer coating cools and solidifies, the lava inside may still be warm and flowing, creating caves. The Grotta dei Lamponi is one of the longest of these caves. A small glacier came to rest in the Grotta del Gelo; when the snow melts, stalactites of ice form inside this cave. Before you ascend, take local advice and read about the new regulations above!


Described as walk 6 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/.


Walk: Monte Nero and Grotta del Gelo on a bigger screen

Walk: Monte Spagnolo and Cisternazza

Walk: Monte Spagnolo and Cisternazza

On this walk you see for yourself the destructive power of Mount Etna. The young lava field that you cross several times dates from an especially violent eruption in 1981. After only a few days several fissures opened up in the caves lying between 1300m and 2250m, and lava spewed out, completely covering vegetable gardens, orchards, vineyards, farmhouses and even a stretch of the Circumetnea railway line. One of the lava streams threatened the town of Randazzo for a while.

 

 

Described as walk 7 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/.

Walk: Monte Ruvolo and Monte Minardo >>track on Google Maps



Bronte, a pretty little town with a centre dating from the Middle Ages, is best known for the cultivation of pistachios (Pistacia vera). It was the Arabs who introduced this exotic tree to Sicily. Bronte is the best place to find all the culinary specialities that can be concocted from pistachio nuts. Near Bronte is the former Abbey of Maniace, known as the Castello Nelson since the 18th century, when Admiral Nelson was made Duke of Bronte by the Bourbon King Ferdinand. This walk, just a few kilometres south of Bronte, takes you through a richly-varied crater landscape and the largest holm oak woods on Etna’s flanks.



Described as walk 8 in Landscapes of Sicily. Car tours and walks, Sunflower (20134). Have a look at the editors web site with current updates: www.sunflowerbooks.co.uk/product/walking-in-sicily/.


Walk: Monte Ruvolo, Monti Tre Frati and Monte Minardo on a bigger screen

 

 

 

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