Visit to Mount Etna.
Mount Etna in Sicily is Italy’s highest volcano and one of the most active in the world. Currently 3323 metres, it’s exact height changes with every eruption! It’s classed as a decade volcano. Mount Etna consists of two types of volcano; an ancient shield volcano at its base, and the younger stratovolcano on top.
If on your visit to Mount Etna you arrived in anything other than the public bus from Catania, you have a bit more flexibility when you can leave. But, because of the way the buses work, ie one a day, you’ll have a lot of time to kill if you haven’t planned out your day of activities. From Catania, you’ll arrive at Etna Sud / Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza.
- €6.60 Bus from Catania to Etna
- Cable Car €30
- Cable Car and truck €34
If you are going on the public bus from Catania, check out my full post about it here, it includes maps of exactly where to buy your ticket and where the bus stop is and timings. The Italian public transport system is usually horrendous, and Sicily is no exception! It’s a myth that Mussolini made the trains run on time.
What to do on your visit to Mount Etna
There are various mountain excursions on offer, you can get up to the crater with one of these tours too. However, this will depend on fitness levels. The air is thinner up on the mountain but you don’t really notice it until you start exerting yourself, then you can find it pretty heavy going.
The excursions, of course, are at an extra cost. They include trips to the summit, looking at some geological marvels and the site of recent eruptions. And they are recent! It can be dangerous – check out this BBC Video of some journalists being caught up in an eruption.
The tours section and where to sign up can be found in the car park at Etna Sud, just next to the cable car station. You can’t miss it!
What I did
Due to a health issue, I knew I wouldn’t be going higher than the cable car ends at 2,500 metres on my visit to Mount Etna. If I could acclimatise more, I could have gone higher like on our Mount Teide trip last year. But you’re dealt the hand you get and my dreams of standing on the top of Etna shouting, ‘Made it Ma, Top of the world!’ were just that, dreams.
Anyway, Jimmy Cagney aside, above is a short video of my visit to Mount Etna. It shows the major highlights, the Cable Car, Silvestri Craters, the snow line and that sort of thing. It’s worth pointing out that the front of the cable car is a tinted plastic. I say this because in my video, what with all the rocks, smoke and clouds in a weird colour makes it look like one of Dantes’ circles of hell!
So I amused myself at the Silvestri Craters at the bottom of the mountain. Well, I say bottom, Etna Sud where the bus takes you, is 2000 metres above sea level. And add another 500 metres to that if you take the cable car up.
After about 2800 metres you need a professional guide if you want to go higher. If you get caught without a guide above that, apparently you’ll be fined!
At the cable car, it’s either €30 or €34 euro return. €30 takes you to 2500 metres and €34 takes you a bit higher up to about 2800. As I mentioned I went for the 2500 metres stop. It’s where the cable car ends and if you have the 34 Euro ticket, you get in a bus/truck and travel the remainder in that.
Cable car hours are 9am to 5.30pm and it takes 10 minutes or so.
I was just looking about and taking time-lapse photos. There was certainly enough for me to do, geology is one of my anorak pleasures.
I also had time to do geocaching. But, as the bus goes back only once a day be on time and don’t miss it. Scheduled departure is at 16.30 but I got there 30 mins early just to be on the safe side. And that was all for the good, as the bus turned up at 16.00 and we were on our way.
Obviously, at Etna Sud, there are all sorts of amenities. Its human nature that where people gather, there is someone there to sell them something. Etna, of course, is no different. There are many tourist shops selling bits of lava and one mobile wagon which sold honey? Yeah, that famous Etna honey?
As well as the shops at Etna Sud there are also some restaurants and bars as you would expect, all being run in the delightfully expressive and chaotic way that the Italians have. I also took a long lunch at the Silvestri Restaurant, which, considering its location was fairly reasonable. A steak with fries, half a litre of red wine and a bottle of water was 24.50. The food is not out of this world, but it filled a hole.
Visit to Mount Etna – Conclusions
Of course, it’s commercialised as you would expect but for me, it didn’t matter. The sheer enormity, both figuratively and literally of Etna over-shadowed anything humans could do to muck it up. It is well worth making a visit to Mount Etna.
Mount Etna weather forecast can be found here
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JUST WATCH THE PROGRAM ON MOUNT ETNA ON BBC NEWS ON 1-2-2020, REMEMBER THE VISIT TO SICILY IN 1971 WHILST IN THE ARMY STATIONED IN CYPRUS WE HAD A FOUR DAY TRIP AS TIME OFF GOT A COACH FROM PALERMO TO THE BASE OF ETNA WALKED ALL THE WAY UP BY WINDING ROAD TO THE OLD HOTEL WHICH WAS HIT BY LAVA IN THE 80S REMEMBER THE TRIP VERY WELL. STAYED IN THE HOTEL OVER NIGHT SLEP IN BUNK BEDS WITH THE OLD BLANKETS WHICH MADE ME ITCH ALL NIGHT HAD ITALIAN COFFEE, THE CUP WAS AS BIG AS A EGG CUP ABOUT A QUATER WATER THE REST WAS FROTH CAPPUCCINO I THINK IT WAS.WE HAD A GUIDE WHO TOOK US UP TO ABOUT 300 METRES FROM THE TOP HE WOULD NOT LET US GO ANY FURTHER WE DID NOT USE THE CABLE CAR WHICH IF I REMEMBER WAS NOT THE LONGEST IN THE WORLD AND HE WAS CARRING A PAIR OF WELLINGTON BOOTS SO ONE OF THE LADS ASKED HIM WHY HE WAS CARRYING THEM SO HE SHOWED US FIRST HE SAID PUT YOUR HAND ON THE VOLCANO SO WE DID NO HEAT NOW WATCH THIS HE SAID ALL OVER THE VOLCANO WERE PITS SOME DEEPER THAN OTHERS HE THREW ONE DOWN THE PIT THE WELLY WAS GONE IN AN INSTANT MELTED, HE SAID YOU FALL DOWN SOME OF THESE PITS YOU ARE NOT COMING OUT. THAT DAY WE WALKED ALL THE WAY BACK DOWN THE ROAD TO THE BASE AND WENT BACK TO PALERMO STAYED ANOTHER DAY NOBODY WE SPOKE TO COULD SPEAK ENGLISH OR DIDN’T WANT TO APART FROM A LITTLE BOY OF ABOUT 7 OR 8 YEARS OLD AND HE SHOWED US ALL THE BARS AND RESTAURANTS. THEN BACK TO THE AIRPORT THE NEXT DAY AND BACK TO CYPRUS.