Volcano Etna "Gives and Takes"

Filed in Gather Travel Essential by on April 18, 2007 0 Comments

As we cruise through the Sicilian countryside with our Fiat Uno “stick shift” (which I love) an opening appears through the trees coasting the highway, exposing this hulking mass of Mount Etna, Italy’s largest active volcano rising to 11,000 feet, adorned with a clear blue sky, a mushroom like of white smoke rising vertically from the vertex, the active Volcano becomes the focus of our camera as my wife rolls down the window, capturing this wonderful photo.  

Etna is derived from its Roman name Aetna and was considered the home of the god of fire, even back then Etna was nearly under a constant state of eruption, making it the world’s most active volcano.

 For many years Etna has been the livelihood for many locals, with its rich volcanic soil it has favored a thriving production of top quality wine and my favorite liqueur produced from aninfusion of alcohol and fresh artichokes (known as cynara scolimus). Cynar (16.5°) is the end result of long years of study and ancient recipes, also Amaro Averna is on the top of my grocery list when I’m on vacation in Sicily, produced from a mix of local herbs found at the feet of Etna with a full bodied flavor a slight caramel taste an aroma of mint and a dark color that resembles espresso coffee, also serves as a digestive after consuming a hefty Italian meal.

Today Etna continues to spew forth molten lava, smoke and ash practically non-stop, making it a Mecca for both volcanologists as well as tourists. I definitely recommend discovering this wonder of nature if your planning a trip to Italy, even though Mt. Etna is extremely active, the locals see the volcano more as a blessing than a danger, however Mt. Etna does do some damage from time to time, as the lava covered houses on its slopes will testify to. In 1669 lava flows from a particularly large eruption destroyed several villages and even threatened the city of Catania (today, population over 1.000.000) when the lava breached the city wall. Throughout its long history (including ancient Greek and Roman cities), Catania has been covered by Etna’s lava seven times, but has not been threatened by the volcano since 1669. The biggest threat to Catania is not Etna’s lava but violent earthquakes that have been very deadly in the past.Today certain measures are taken when lava flows threaten towns or important infrastructure such as attempts to divert lava flows with explosives. However these attempts usually meet with only partial success and lava from Etna occasionally damages or destroys property, usually tourist related facilities and restaurants built on the slopes.

Etna’s eruptions may cause property damage, but they are not very deadly. In fact there have only been 77 confirmed deaths directly related to Mt. Etna over the thousands of years of recorded volcanic activity. Etna may seem tame due to the fact you can hike up this very active volcano, it is still a volcano and visitors still must take caution. The most recent deaths on Etna were due to carelessness of tourists getting too close to erupting vents or being struck by lightning. It might be a tourist attraction but Mt. Etna is still a powerful example of nature’s fury.


Etna, December 14, 2002
Aerial view of one of the longest streams of ashes near 200 miles long.
Everyday for 3 weeks my Mom that lives at 100 miles from Etna would sweep about 10 pounds of ashes off her sidewalks, which she collected and saves 2 pounds at my request for me to take back home in Michigan as a souvenir.


History of Mt. Etna Eruptions and Photos:







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