Etna – and I’m not talking about our beloved local restaurant – sits proudly there in the province of Catania, a splendiferous cauldron of bubbling fire, ever ready to blow and flow molten lava down its flanks.
It is the largest active volcano in Europe, so you wouldn’t want to dangle your toes over that baby or go bungee jumping in it, to be sure.
It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Around 8000 years ago, a catastrophic eruption was powerful enough to cause a tsunami which adversely affected the coastal regions of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Catania, precariously placed below the spluttering giant, was victim to one of its eruptions back in 1669 when the lava practically destroyed it.
In fact, over the years there have been many eruptions of varying severity, including one which swamped ‘Piano Provenzana’ in 2002.
However, like an ill-mannered spitting schoolboy, who has the odd virtuous moment, Etna can do positive too.
Undeniably beautiful and dramatic, vineyards and orchards thrive in fertile volcanic soil on its lower slopes.
There is also some spectacular scenery in the ‘Gole di Alcantar’ area between northern Etna and the Peloritani mountains too.
There are several ways to ascend the volcano, and if you walk up from the nearby hotel ‘Rifiugio Sapienza’, it will take you about four hours.
However, I would be thinking that’s four long hours to get back down as well, and I wouldn’t fancy hot lava pursuing me down the slopes, so maybe a quicker route would be advisable for the more faint-hearted, like me.
You could also go up via cable car, and cross all
your extremities in the hope you didn’t get caught up in an eruption at that very time, thus being catapulted into the atmosphere, with a flaming bottom and a blushing cheek.
Even in August this year, Etna has been up to mischief, spewing ash and molten lava into the Sicilian skies, thus causing travel disruption for the resigned residents of Catania.
The tempestuous beast never sleeps, but rumbles on and on.