The natural spectacle of Mount Etna is a collection of colors that mix between sky and earth. The frequent eruptions of Etna, although not always harmless, always offer a unique show to visitors. The highest volcano in Europe is visible from almost every point of Sicily with its 3,326 meters of height, dominating Catania and the Etna countries.
The volcano rises on the eastern coast of Sicily and is in the provincial territory of Catania. Being an eruptive type volcano its conformation often varies thanks to the opening of new lava vents and to the deposition of rocky sediments, in fact, the height has changed over time, undergoing growth or degrowth. The landscape alternates numerous contrasts, being a vast territory: there are in fact urban areas and woods, cultivated land and indigenous vegetation alternating with desolate volcanic rock landscapes. Etna’s eruptive fractures give the territory a high seismic risk, often there are earthquakes in the area due to the great activity in the subsoil.
The Etna park was established in 1987 and represents a naturalistic area. The protection of the fauna and flora present within the perimeter is in fact primary interest for Sicily. Further motivation was the development of tourist areas with attractions and theme parks. At the top of the park, just near the main crater, obviously there is no vegetation and the landscape is lunar. Obviously the new volcanic soil does not allow in any way to grow or make any floristic element sprout. Inside the park there are some species of typical Mediterranean animals. Wild boars, fallow deer, roe deer and even wolves inhabit the volcanic area and are defended inside the protected oasis
Etna is an uninterrupted destination for the visits of tourists interested in the volcano and its manifestations as it is one of the few active volcanoes in the world to be easily accessible. In fact, there are also specialized guides and off-road vehicles that safely take visitors to the summit craters. There are also numerous trekking routes and really interesting excursions that wind along the slopes of the volcano. In addition, for those visiting the Etna with the family and the little ones, there is Etnaland: a theme park that rises on the slopes of the Volcano.
The regular mountain eruptions, sometimes dramatic, have made it a subject of great interest for Greek and Roman mythology and popular beliefs that have tried to explain the behavior of the volcano through the various gods and giants of Roman and Greek legends.
About the god Aeolus, the king of the winds, it was said that he had imprisoned the winds under the caves of Etna. According to Hesiod and the poet Aeschylus, the giant Typhon was confined in Etna and was a cause for eruptions. Another giant, Enceladus, rebelled against the gods, was defeated by Athena and buried under a huge mound of earth that the goddess picked up from the coasts of the continent. Encelad succumbed, flattened and became the island of Sicily. It is said that his body is lying under the island with his head and his mouth under Etna that spits fire at every cry of the giant . Virgil also speaks of Enceladus buried under Etna. On Hephaestus or Vulcan, god of fire and metallurgy and blacksmith of the gods, it was said that he had his forge under Etna and tamed the fire demon Adranos and led him out of the mountain, while the Cyclops held there a forging workshop in which they produced the bolts used as weapons by Zeus. It was supposed that the Greek “world of the dead”, the Tartar, was located under Etna.
Etna seen from the Pizzo Vento site on Fondachelli Fantina.
It is said that Empedocle, an important pre-Socratic philosopher and Greek politician of the 5th century BC, threw himself into the crater of the volcano to discover the secret of his eruptive activity. His body would later be returned from the sea off the coast of Sicily, although in reality it seems that he died in Greece.
It is said that when Etna erupted in 252, a year after the martyrdom of Saint Agatha, the people of Catania took the veil of the Saint, remained intact from the flames of her martyrdom, and invoked its name. It is said that as a result of this the eruption ended, while the veil became blood red, and that for this reason the devotees invoke his name against fire and lightning.
King Arthur and Mount Etna
According to legend, King Arthur would reside in a castle on Mount Etna, whose hidden entrance would be one of the many mysterious caves that dot it. The mythical king of the Britons also appears in a legend, that of the bishop’s horse, narrated by Gervasio di Tilbury . According to an English legend the soul of Queen Elizabeth I of England resides in Etna, due to a pact that she would have made with the devil in exchange for his help to rule the kingdom.