Planning a trip to Mt Etna? A few facts about Europe's most active volcano.
Mt. Etna is the highest volcano in Europe (currently 3,329 metres -10,922 ft) and the most prominent landmark od Sicily. Its smoking peak can be seen from most of Sicily and is constantly reshaped by seismic activity. There are four distinct craters at the summit area and more than 300 vents on the flanks, ranging in size from small holes to large craters. On the North-East side there is Valle del Bove, an enormous chasm, bounded on three sides by sheer walls of tufa and lava (in some places 900 mtrs high). It is probaly the result of the collapse of the original crater complex.
Eruptions that occur at the summit are extremely spectacular, but are rarely a threat for the inhabited areas around the volcano. Flank eruptions can occur down to a few hundred meters altitude, even well within the small towns built on the slopes. The most destructive eruption in recent history was in 1669, lasted 122 days and destroyed several towns. Since then, there have been countless summit eruptions and at least 60 flank eruptions (the latest ones in 2001, 2002-2003, 2004-2005,2007 and 2008).
The vegetation is extremely rich beacuse of the fertility of the soil and offers continous changes in the landscape. In the lower areas there are vineyards, citrus, hazel-nut trees, fruit orchards, chestnut trees and some remaining oak groves, From 2000 to metres above sea level or higher, it is possible to see beech trees. As you go further up you encounter thorn bushes which offer protection to other Etna mountain plants such as violets. Above the limit of thorn bushes, there are few elements able to survive the harsh environmental conditions of Mount Etna.
The Weather is very changeable and it can get very cold even in summer. If you are planning on doing anything more than looking at the view, you should be properly dressed and equipped with solid trekking boots, trekking trousers, waterproof jacket, hat and gloves