Mount Etna on Sicily’s east coast rises gracefully from a sapphire sea. The peaceful scene contradicts the power of the most active volcano in Europe.
“There’s the monster,” said our guide Mario, as we arrived at the starting point for our hike. We’d hired a local agronomist to lead us up the trails. His passion for plants and superstition outshone his social skills. He pointed to every piece of grass emerging from the pumice.
Etna’s nickname dates back to the time of the Greek gods. Named for Typhoeus, a fire-breathing Titan who never rested and whom Zeus banished to live in the underworld. When the Father of all Monsters shook, cracks opened in the earth before he spewed red lava and molten rock. Typhoeus has been roaring steadily in Europe’s most active mountain for almost 50 years, and is still roaring. With each belch the continent’s highest volcano inches closer to Olympus.
We are drawn to climb the mount because it’s there, because the lunar landscape is so foreign to our every day lives, and because it humbles us in our every day existence. We have chosen the North Slope for its gentle include. The walk will take us 3 to 4 hours round trip. The first part of the trail is cleared, flanked with dried grasses and young pine trees. As we climb higher, only insects and curious humans crawled around what seemed like a giant asphalt anthill.
Despite some tricky footwork of twisted lava flows, heaped like intertwined ropes, the climb is not highly strenuous. Following the outing, our group heads to Gambino vineyards for some high-altitude wine tasting with local pecorino cheeses at one of the vineyard scattered around the foothills. Yum!!
This hike is available as part of our southeastern and eastern Sicily itineraries.