SituationEtna (3,343m/11,032ft), also called "Mongibello" (from the Italian "monte" and the Arabic "giabal" = mountain) lies in the east of the island of Sicily - close to the coast and northwest of Catania.
It is Europe's largest active volcano and after the Alpine peaks the highest mountain in Italy. The area has been designated as a National Park. Etna is one of the youngest geological features in Sicily and rises in the form of a truncated cone probably where an arm of the sea existed in Tertiary times. The almost circular base is 40km/25mi in diameter and 165km/102mi in circumference.The upper slopes have only a meagre cover of vegetation; the porous rock allows water to sink down rapidly to lower levels, where it meets an impervious bed of rocks and emerges in many places as springs. Oranges and lemons are grown up to about 500m/1,650ft, olives and vines to 1,300m/4,290ft. Above this are forest trees and macchia up to 2,100m/6,930ft, sometimes with recent lava flows cutting through them. The summit region up to the snow line is a dull black wasteland glistening in the sun.EruptionsThere are more than one hundred known eruptions of Etna. The volcanic vents, more than 260 in number, are mostly on the flanks of the mountain. Major activity occurs at intervals of four to twelve years (the most recent eruption was in 1992).Solar power-stationOn the south slope of Etna, where the sun shines for 3,000 hours in a year, stands the solar power-station "Eurhelios" (surface 6,000 sq.m/7,176 sq.yd).
The crater of Etna, which is filled with gases, is always changing its shape by eruptions. It is impossible to get very close to the crater. As Etna is never really inactive the area is declared dangerous to visitors; the climb leads through a rugged moonlike landscape.
Valle del Bove
Southeast of the former observatory is the beginning of the Valle del Bove (Valley of the Ox), a black and desolate chasm (5km/3mi wide) surrounded on three sides by rock walls 600- 1,200m/1,980-3,960ft high. Experienced climbers can go down (with guide) through the Valle del Bove to Zafferanda Etnea (600m/1,980ft).
Etna Driving Tour
A drive round Etna, starting from Catania (144km/89mi, also possible by rail), is very rewarding. The road runs via Misterbianco (213m/703ft; pop. 15,000), Paternò (225m/743ft; pop. 46,500) with a castle built by Roger I in 1073 (rebuilt in the 14th century; well-preserved interior), towering above the town, to Adrano (588m/1,940ft; pop. 34,000), beautifully situated on a lava plateau, with a Norman castle containing an Archeological Museum and the convent of Santa Lucia, 15th-17th century.About 9km/5.5mi southwest of Adrano, picturesquely situated on a steep hill above the Simeto valley, with a magnificent view of Etna, is the little town of Centuripe (730m/2,409ft; pop. 6750), formerly Centorbi, with the so-called Castello di Corradino (first century B.C.). The Archeological Museum contains finds from the ancient Siculan town of Centuripae which rose to importance in the late Hellenistic-Roman period and was destroyed by Frederick II in 1233 (interesting the Hellenistic-Roman house "Contrada panneria", with paintings of the second-first centuries B.C.).From Adrano the road continues via Bronte (760m/2,508ft; pop. 20,000), Maletto (960m/3,168ft; old castle), Randazzo and Linguaglossa (600m/1,980ft; pop. 4,500) to Fiumefreddo (62m/205ft). Then back to Catania on the motorway A18 or S.S.114.
CommunicationsThe Etna Road from Catania to Rifugio Sapienza.LocationNicolosi is situated on the southern slopes of Monte Etna, and its attractive climate makes it a favorite spot for summer outings. It is the headquarters of the "Etna che Lavora", a co-operative which in 1988 founded the Etna Volcanological Museum (Museo Vulcanologico Etneo) at Via della Quercia 5. On display in the museum are minerals, lava rock of various kinds, articles made from lava and examples of rural buildings.The town is also the home of the mountain-guide section of the Club Alpino Italiano, or CAI. Nearby lie the Monti Rossi (949m/3,115ft), from which in 1669 erupted the huge stream of lava which flowed as far as Catania. The eruption in 1983 and a landslide in 1985 destroyed the cable-way to the top of Monte Etna and damaged the road, but it is possible to reach the top by four-wheel truck. On the way up the various regions of vegetation and some of the 19th and 20th century lava courses can be seen.
The town of Masalucia 6km/4mi to the southeast of Nicolosi in the "Del Bosco" is well-known for its carpets.
CommunicationsSS 120 Randazzo-Nicosía.LocationTroina, one of the highest towns in Sicily, is situated west of Mount Etna on a ridge in the Nebrodic Mountains.HistoryIn ancient times there was a Siculan town, perhaps Engyon, a little to the south. In 876 the Saracens took Troina; in 1062 it was taken back by the Norman Roger I. He first chose Troina as his residence and later it became a setting-out point for many Norman conquering expeditions. In 1088 Roger I and Pope Urban II met here; at their second meeting ten years later in Salerno Count Roger was recognized as an apostolic legate.
A Norman tower was extended in the 15th century, then made into the Chiesa Madre and given a Classical front in the 18th century. This church at the highest point in the town and with an extensive view is perhaps one of Sicily's earliest Norman churches, for it was in Troina that the Normans established the first Latin diocese in 1080, although Messina soon joined it in 1096.The church was built c. 1080, most probably within the castle fortifications. Only the walls of the transept and the bell-tower date from the Middle Ages. The apses have been pulled down and other changes brought about in the ensuing centuries mean that the original structure is no longer recognizable.
The mountain town of Cesarò (20km/12.5mi northeast of Troina) lies even higher than Troina, at 1,150m/3,774ft. There are the ruins of a castle belonging to the noble Roman family of Colonna, which was loaned to Cesarò. Immediately to the west of the town nestles the mountain village of San Teodoro.
Lago di Ancipa
The Lago di Ancipa reservoir (7km/4.5mi northwest of Troina) fills the valley of the Troina River.