The Etna, declared UNESCO World Heritage Site for being one of the “most emblematic and active in the world”, is also the highest volcano in Europe with its 3,340 meters above sea level. Its craters, lava flows, lava caves and the transformations that it has undergone over time are the main aspects of interest for research. Eruptions, that recur periodically, fascinate tourists and scientists making the volcano become famous worldwide for its spectacular flaming tongues of lava.
Its first eruptions are to date back to the middle-lower Pleistocene period (570,000 / 600,000 years ago). The current volcano building, the height of which undergoes constant changes due to the accumulation of materials or collapse of the walls, was built on the old volcanoes of Trifoglietto (whose collapse has generated the pit crater of the Valle del Bove) and Mongibello (from Arabic “Gebel” meaning the “mountain of mountains”), which is still in activity.
The summit of the volcano consists of the Central crater (Voragine and Bocca Nuova), the North-East crater (1911) and the South-East crater (1971).
In addition to the upper craters there are of particular interest the Montagnola and the Monti Silvestri. The Montagnola is one of the most impressive secondary cones of the Etna: it rises on the south of the Central Crater, on the high southern slopes where it is implanted at an altitude of 2,500 meters following the eruption of 1763.
The Monti Silvestri were formed as a result of the eruption of 1892. Between the Upper and Lower Monti Silvestri passes the road that leads from Zafferana Etnea and Nicolosi to Rifugio Sapienza and the square of the cableway, a destination for all visitors who are going to start climbing the volcano.
Infrastructure does not allow to reach the top by car but, having reached the tourist resort around the Etna cableway, then continue the journey for about another 20 km in the direction of Zafferana Etnea.
At 2,900 m altitude is the famous “Torre del Filosofo” (Tower of the Philosopher), a building so named in memory of Empedocles (492 BC. – 430 a. C. approximately), the philosopher of Agrigento who climbed the volcano to study the phenomena and set there his own home.
Above 1000 m in winter you can find snow which often lasts almost until summer. The snow-covered areas are easily reachable only from the south and north-east, where also two ski resorts are (Etna North and Etna South). From the south, from the historic Rifugio Sapienza in the territory of Nicolosi, you can admire the gulf of Catania and the valley of Simeto. From ski slopes of Piano Provenzana north, in the territory of Linguaglossa, Taormina is visible to the coast of Calabria.