Tag Archives: #Mt Etna

Mt. Etna – The Highest Mountain in Italy South of the Alps


If you travel to Italy, try to extend the trip southerly to visit Sicily, pronounced (See-chel-ia) in Italian. Sicily is located at the ‘tip of the boot’ of Italy and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with several much smaller islands surrounding it that are also considered part of it.

If you do decide to visit Sicily you will fly into Catania Airport, the busiest airport on the island (and one of the busiest in all of Italy). As you descend from the plane into the airport, the majestic Mount Etna is glorioiusly displayed on the east coast against the blue waters of the Mediterranean. It is a breathtaking site that you never tire of no matter how many times you arrive there. Mount Etna is almost two miles high.

Mt. Etna, the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity and the second largest active volcano in Europe. Etna covers an area of 460 sq mi and is the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Only Mount Teide in Tenerife surpasses it in the whole of the European region.

Located at the foot of the active volcano, Catania is the second-largest city in Sicily. There is a cable car to get to the top, but we drove up the winding roads as did the bikers and motorbikers. As we ascended, you could see the fertile volcanic soils that support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain. From the busyness of Catania, as we drove up, up, and up, we could see the end of plant life where it had once flourished and spots of new reshooting by different plants that grow in ash. It became almost surreal as black mountains of still smouldering ash was on either side of us, all the while viewing the top of the volcano, with spouts of white smoke erupting from it.

The feeling is one of isolation; so different from the bustling, busy city we left behind. There were ruins of a house that was destroyed in an eruption. The higher we went up, it was somewhat unsettling to realize that the volcano is still active.

And there have been eruptions, some of them devastating. There was an an eruption back in 1928 which led to the first and only destruction of a population center since the 1669 eruption. A village was obliterated in just two days, with the lava destroying nearly every building. Only a church and a few surrounding buildings survived.

The year we drove up to Mt. Etna was in 2003. Just before we visited there, that same year, a much larger eruption threw up a huge column of ash that could easily be seen from space and fell as far away as Libya. Many houses on the flanks of the volcano experienced structural damage. The eruption also completely destroyed the tourist station Piano Provenzana.
Another eruption happened in May 2008 immediately to the east of Etna’s summit craters, was accompanied by a swarm of more than 200 earthquakes and significant ground deformation in the summit area.

Are Sicilians warned before an eruption? Bill McGuire, director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College London, says seismic monitoring is standard. “There are lots of different methods of monitoring volcanos now but the two ways that unequivocally tell us that a volcano’s getting ready for eruption are still the old ones – earthquake activity and ground deformation,” he says.

Before a volcano erupts, magma (molten rock) rises towards the surface, breaking rock en route. As more pushes up, the rocks around it vibrate. This results in earthquakes that can sometimes cause damage to buildings. Any sudden change in quake activity around an active volcano will, hopefully, give scientists enough time to sound warnings.

David Rothery, a researcher in the volcano dynamics group at the Open University, uses another method of detecting potential eruptions. Many volcanos have craters at the summit but it is usually too dangerous to put instruments there. He peers at craters from space using satellites that measure infrared radiation, and looks for any sudden changes in heat activity. He says that, depending on the volcano, scientists will get anything from several months to a few days notice of an eruption.

In theory, then, eruptions shouldn’t cause casualties. But this always depends on the evacuation plans for danger areas. Before Vesuvius erupts again, for example, 600,000 people will have to be evacuated, possibly at only a couple of weeks’ notice.

Ref: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_scientists_predict_volcanic_eruptions

Marie Coppola February 2014

Taormina, Sicily – The Pearl of the Ionian Sea

When native Sicilians’ favorite Christmas vacationland is right in their backyard, you know that it is a place you should definitely make time to visit.

Taormina, set high on a large hill, overlooks the Ionian Sea. The breathtaking view of Mt.Etna in the not too far distant is a breathtaking sight that visitors and natives enjoy over and over. Climbing the stairs of the Greek-Roman theater, it isn’t difficult to visualize the events of long ago. This theater is the second largest in Sicily, not too far a drive from Siracusa, which boasts the largest. The theater is in excellent condition at any time, and all enjoy the panoramic view from the top of the theater.

Taormina’s spectacular theater, which was built by the Greeks, overlooks the blue-green sea of the Ionian Sea, looking directly at Mt. Etna in distant Catania. The theater was later completely rebuilt by the Romans and is still used for classical plays and music.

Taormina ranks as one of the most beautiful holiday sites in Italy and a popular tourist attraction and vacation site. The flight from Rome to Catania Airport takes about 55 minutes. The descent into the airport with Mt. Etna to your right is one of the most memorable sights of the flight. The ride to Taormina is about 40 minutes by highway – taxi, shuttle or bus. .

Taormina is a commune village, very picturesque with cobblestone streets and open cafes. Taking a break you can have an espresso, cappuccino or a dolce (sweet). If you want a lunch treat, you can try an arancina (orange) a deep-friend rice ball with beef and cheese centers. And their pizza is delicious – usually small individual pies, with over 50 toppings. Enjoy a fresh-made gelato which is the best frozen dessert anywhere.

From the hill above, you can also view the village below, and the beautiful, unique bay of Giardini Naxos. Walking along there are designer bistros and many distinct boutiques. The side streets walks, offer fresh fruit stands, villas majestically adorned with breathtaking bougainvillea which blooms all year round. Make sure you have sensible shoes as the cobblestones are balance-challenging.

You can lunch or dine in the outdoor cafe overlooking this magnificient scenery. Good local cuisine can be found at Licchio’s, Osteria Nero D’Avola, Trattoria da Nino, andTrattoria Don Camillo. Al Saraceno has fantastic views of Etna and the bay. As in most establishments, the owners are very friendly and family-like. And, with most tourist areas, if you dine a few miles down the road, the food is also delicious and less costly.

The fresh fruit is picked daily and one of the best taste treats; culinary delights await you in all areas. Taormina’s climate, similar to southeastern U.S., has a Mediterranean or coastal climate with mild, wet winters. Coast winter temperatures average about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and it has hot dry, summers. It has always rained in October when we visit and the best times to visit are September and May.

You also have to have gelato which is like ice cream and you will always remember what it tastes like. It has less fat than ice cream and a distinct, delicious taste and texture of its own. .

It is commonplace to view original aotists’ renditions of this beautiful city as they are displayed in the center of the square near the Greek-Roman Theater. They are for sale and you can get a beautiful one-of-a-kind hand-painted treasure for about 25 Euros.

Sicily is an outstanding, beautiful country. The climate is similar year round to South Carolina’s. Fresh fruit abounds and culinary delights await you in all cities. Taormina is its “Pearl”.

© Marie Coppola 2006