With an area of almost 1200 km3, and a height of nearly 3330
meters, Etna is the largest volcano in Europe and the second among the most
active volcanoes in the world. Its basal circumference alone is 140 km!
Mount Etna is one of the world's most active volcanoes, yet
thousands of people inhabit its lower slopes. And thousands more explore its
black lava slopes or ski down them during the crisp Sicilian winters.
Its name comes from either Phoenician meaning “chimney” or from the Greek for “burn”.
There are several live craters at the summit, and old craters and subsidiary cones litter Etna's
Photo © Pietro
It is a very lively and diverse volcano and since 2013 it was added as a World Heritage Site by
Eruptions are a frequent occurrence, so the entire region has been carefully monitored since the
According to UNESCO, Mount Etna has "one of the world's longest documented records of historical
volcanism." Its eruptions occur both on its top, where at the moment there are four craters and on both sides that
are dotted with hundreds of cones of various sizes.
The summit activity is the most frequent of the volcano, and can last for several years. The
eruptions of the side instead have durations ranging from a few days up to a few years (e.g. the eruption of
Throughout history, Etna was also observed to blow smoke rings, a very rare occurrence among
volcanoes. First observed in the 1970, last time Etna blew rings of 50 meters in diameter was in 2014.
Mount Etna dominates all of eastern Sicily. On clear days, it can be seen from further
Mt Etna and Catania © Bob Travis
Sicilians have a love/hate relationship with this mountain. Erupting, it deterred a Carthaginian
invasion in 396BC. It enriches their soil with volcanic ash. It is one of the main attractions of the island.
On the other hand, by constantly smoking, it broods on the horizon, casting a spell over
everyone living in its shadow.
Mount Etna has been likened to a huge house cat, purring quietly, awakening every so often.
Topped with snow or throwing up fire, it's always been a hot destination.
(photo © Dgavrile)