Mount Etna is a natural attraction in Sicily, Italy and the most active volcano in the world. It is close to 11,000 feet high and the height changes each time it erupts. It has erupted about 200 times since 1500 B.C. It has multiple openings and it is never known where it will erupt. Solidified lava covers more than 1,200 square meters of Mount Etna's surface.
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Ancient Greeks believed that Mount Etna was the home of Vulcan, the god of fire, and of Cyclops, the one-eyed monster. According to Destination 360, eruptions meant the Vulcan was forging weapons for Mars, the god of war. Etna's most violent eruption was in March 1669, where its lava cut through two mountain villages, flowing for days until the end of April, after the western side of Catania had been destroyed. It took eight years for the lava to cool.
Volcano Live indicates the Mount Etna is known for its varied eruption styles. Both flank and summit eruptions have occurred at the same time. In some cases, eruptions are preceded by earthquake activity in the area. On many occasions, eruptions have threatened or actually damaged nearby towns and islands. Eruptions have lasted anywhere from a few days to 10 months. An average of one eruption every five years occurred during the 19th century.
Much of Mount Etna's surface is covered with oak, stone pine, birch and beech trees. The lower altitudes have shrubs, such as broom plant. Vineyards and olive groves are in abundance at the base of the volcano. Types of wildlife in the forests include foxes, weasels, squirrels, rabbits, porcupines, hedgehogs, some wildcats, snakes and lizards, according to Best of Sicily. In the ponds and streams, there are turtles, frogs and toads. Falcons, partridges, owls and occasionally the golden eagle are found flying overhead. There are ducks, herons and migratory birds living in the Gurrida Lake area.
During the winter, Etna offers skiing. In the summer, there are opportunities for hiking through the woods and exploring caverns. Suggested areas for hiking, according to Best of Sicily, include the western slope from Monte Gallo to the Galvarina forest refuge, Casa Pirao to Monte Spagnolo to Cisternazza and the Monte Nero degli Zappini and Monte Zoccolaro nature trails. Alcantara Gorge is a scenic basalt rock formation that was caused by activity from the volcano. Even though there is a daily threat of eruption, tours are available for hikers and the south side is open for hiking without a guide.
Prior to making a climb, it is important to check with the Catania tourist office to determine the current status of the volcano. Temperatures on Mount Etna are cooler than those along the coast or in valleys.
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