The famous Castagno dei 100 cavalli (100 horse chestnut) stands in the territory of Sant’Alfio, a village on the slopes of Etna on the east side. It is a huge chestnut tree, legendary especially for its age, in fact it is estimated that this natural monument is at least 2000 years old. The name is attributed to the legend according to which Queen Giovanna D’Angiò took refuge from a storm under the foliage and inside the tree together with 100 knights …
Etna eruptions are usually of two types: explosive or effusive. Explosive eruptions are eruptions with Strombolian type activities, that is, with the emission of gas and lapilli from the summit craters or from lateral craters (flank eruptions). The effusive eruptions are instead characterized by the emission of lava, often from a lateral fracture, and the formation of a lava flow.
The greatest number of eruptions poses no danger to the population and population centers. In these cases we almost speak of “tourist” eruptions that only give a great show. Etna can also erupt several times in a year from the top craters and on average it develops massive and long lasting eruptions every ten years. Examples are the last major eruptions of 2001 and 2002 which devastated the ski slopes and the Etna cableway, from 1991/93 inside the Valle del Bove, from 1983 still on the cable car, from 1981 which almost reached the town of Randazzo. And then again the eruptions that in the past, not too far from us, reached the inhabited centers damaging them. The most recent of these are the Mascali eruption of 1928 which devastated the town almost entirely, the eruption of Lunguaglossa in 1923 and that of Belpasso in 1910. Among the most impressive to remember the eruption of 1669 that reached Catania in how much the eruptive mouth developed only 800 meters above sea level, near the Red Mountains.
HIKING NOTES: Regardless of the type, watching a live lava flow is a truly unique emotion. In the presence of active eruptions, we organize excursions to see this extraordinary natural phenomenon up close (and safely …).
It is commonplace to represent volcanoes with a single summit crater. The summit craters of Etna instead are in total four: The Voragine, the North East, the Central and the South East. They are all very recent craters and the highest among these is the North East crater, with a height of 3329 m (variable!). The South East crater is the most active in recent decades with very intense and short activities, even for just an hour. The landscape, due to the altitude, is almost devoid of vegetation and “lunar”, but the panorama offered is exciting thanks also to its proximity to the sea (14 km as the crow flies).
In the past it was thought that inside the “mouths” of the volcano there were gods or that it was access to the underworld, perhaps also for the immensity of the panorama offered by the craters which have a diameter of over 500 meters and a considerable depth, also it is always variable due to the instability and changeability of the places. For many months of the year at the summit craters it is possible to find snow deposited during the winter, another fascinating element of our territory. Reaching the top of the volcano is for many the most popular destination.
HIKING NOTES: It is possible to reach the summit craters during the summer months in trekking and during the winter months on skis. Depending on volcanic activity, in recent years, there may be prohibitions imposed by civil protection on the basis of a regulation of use. The ascent is almost always imposed accompanied by qualified personnel. The summit craters can be reached with our SUMMIT CRATERS excursion.
Die Faraglioni und die Lachea-Insel sind vor allem für den epischen Mythos von Ulysses berühmt, der an diesem Ort mit den Zyklopen kollidierte, monströsen Riesen mit einem Auge, die diese riesigen Felsbrocken auf die Schiffe des Helden schleuderten. In Wirklichkeit stellen die Faraglioni dei Ciclopi und die Insel Lachea die ersten vulkanischen U-Boot-Manifestationen des Ätna dar, die vor etwa 500.000 Jahren stattfanden, auch wenn sie heute von Touristen und lokalen Schwimmern besucht werden, die möglicherweise den wahren Ursprung des Ortes ignorieren. Das integrale Meeresschutzgebiet wurde seit mehreren Jahren eingerichtet, um diese besondere natürliche Umwelt zu schützen.
An diesen Orten können einige ganz besondere vulkanische Phänomene wie Kissen, Hyaloklasten und säulenförmige Basalte bewundert werden.
WANDERUNGSHINWEISE: Der Besuch dieser Orte ist sowohl von der Riviera als auch vom Boot aus möglich, die von unseren Guides bevorzugte Lösung. Tatsächlich führt unser Verein geführte Touren mit typischen Fischerbooten durch, die heute für den Tourismus genutzt werden. Insbesondere empfehlen wir die MAREMONTI Tour
Grotta del Gelo is a volcanic cave formed in the eruption of 1614-1624 located on the north side of the volcano at an altitude of 2000. Its name derives from the fact that inside it is possible to find perennial fossil ice, a characteristic that makes it the glacier further south in Europe. It is indescribable the amazement and contrast that this place manages to offer visitors, especially when the heat of the summer months rages. In March 1981, this wonderful cave risked disappearing due to the eruption that gushed a few meters away from the cave and arrived near Randazzo.
HIKING NOTES: The Grotta del Gelo can only be reached by trekking with at least 5/6 hours of walking. Our association organizes the visit of the cave with the Etna Trekking Full Day excursion, dedicated only to good hikers.
The sides of the volcano are unexpectedly, at least for the collective imagination, rich in vegetation. Many of the plants present on Etna’s soil are the result of a thousand-year adaptation to the volcanic environment. There are some endemic plants, that is, which have unique characteristics and can only be found in a specific place.
Among the most representative and common plants to be observed on the Etna volcano we find, at different altitudinal bands and according to the time elapsed between the eruptions and the repopulation of the flora, starting from the bottom: mosses and lichens such as the Stereocaulum Vesuvianum which takes root on the roughness of the nude lava rocks after a few years; the romice and chamomile of Etna small pioneer plants that color the ski and volcanic sands in spring; Ginestra dell’Etna is a normally shrubby plant which instead becomes arboreal and dominates the lava flows after about a century; the birch of Etna, which populates in spots only some slopes of the volcano at high altitudes and many others. The volcano in the summer is essentially an explosion of colors.
HIKING NOTES: During our excursions on Etna it will be possible to see different species of the endemic flora.
The lateral craters are cones of volcanic slag formed during flank or eccentric eruptions of the volcano (not generated by the summit craters) but by eruptive fractures at lower altitudes. Etna has about 250 along its sides and their number is increasing because with each explosive eruption these cones are formed upstream of the lava flow. They are on average about 100 meters high, made up of pyroclastic and incente material (ash, sand, lapilli, tuffs) and can often manifest themselves through the spectacular “button system”, or several cones in succession aligned on the eruptive axis as if they were of the buttons.
From these craters usually the most destructive lava flows for inhabited centers are generated. For example the Monti Rossi di Nicolosi testify to the historic eruption of 1669 which destroyed towns and parts of the city of Catania, down to the sea.
HIKING NOTES: During our excursions on Etna it will be possible to see many recent and ancient craters and climb to the top of some of these craters.
You cannot say that you have really visited Etna if you have not observed the immensity of the Valle del Bove. The Bove valley is a huge depression on the east flank of the volcano which was created, according to the latest INGV studies, about 10,000 years ago as a result of the collapse of some older volcanic buildings. The Caldera, this is the scientific name, is 5 km wide and 7 long and with its extension covers almost the entire eastern side of the volcano. Its walls are up to 1000 meters high.
These characteristics make it a true colossus of nature. There are some theories about its creation, the most credited according to scientists is that it is the result of the collapse of one of the Etna volcanic buildings (the Trifoglietto), which is estimated to be quite higher than the current volcano. Within the Valle del Bove, whose toponym is of unknown origin, but it is likely that it may depend on the fact that in the past the prairie at the bottom of the valley hosted grazing animals. Today, however, most of the Etna lava flows flow into the Caldera, making it a place of raw beauty, so from its edges, a panoramic point of passage for many of our excursions on the volcano, it is often possible to admire volcanic activity.
HIKING NOTES: The Valle del Bove can be reached on various trails mainly by trekking or alternatively by car from some panoramic points located below. The trekking routes are almost all of medium difficulty.
Etna is very rich in volcanic caves also called Lava Tube (lava tubes), which were formed during the lava flows due to the thickening of the lava as a consequence of the cooling of the outermost layer of the eruptive flow. The length of these cavities is very variable, from a few tens of meters to over a kilometer.
Many of these caves, with horizontal extension, can be visited easily. Visiting a cave, in addition to the charm of being able to descend into the “underworld” of the volcano, it is possible to understand some really interesting dynamics and volcanic aspects. Among the best known caves of Etna we find the Grotta del Gelo, the Grotta dei Lamponi, La Grotta dei Three levels, the Cassone Cave and the Snow Cave, but there are over 250.
HIKING NOTES: During most of our excursion a visit to a cave of volcanic origin is foreseen, in total safety, with the use of helmets and speleologist lights.