Etna, with its massive and disquieting presence, dominates the landscape of eastern Sicily. With 3329 meters of altitude, it is the highest peak in the south of Italy and the largest active volcano in Europe. Its activity is almost constant with frequent and spectacular eruptions produced by the four craters on the top, while the ordinary (and more dangerous) ones arise from the fissures and old craters on the mountainside. This activity, carefully monitored by 120 seismic stations and satellites, sometimes ends up in a ban on visitors for safety reasons.
Since 1987 the volcano and its slopes have become part of the Etna Park, which extends for 590 square kilometers and includes about 21 locations. The landscape within the park varies from the snowy mountaintop to the lunar deserts of black lava, from birch forests to lush vineyards where renowned DOC wines are produced.
The southern side is the most accessible way to climb the volcano; the starting point to reach the crater area is Rifugio Sapienza (1923 m), a tiny cluster of souvenir shops and bars that revolve around the refuge, from here there are various options to get to the craters. The easiest way is to take the cableway up to an altitude of 2500 meters and then the minibus to the Torre del Filosofo area (2920 m). Alternatively, it is possible to skip the stage by minibus and walk the route starting from the highest station of the cable car; a steep climb of 2 km. On windy days the cable car service is suspended and replaced by minibusses.
The volcano has four summit craters: the Bocca di Nord-Est, the Voragine, the Bocca Nuova and the South-East Crater. The two most likely to see are the Southeast Crater, one of the most active, and the Bocca Nuova. The proximity that you can reach depends on the activity of the volcano. If you go up without a guide, always walk with caution because the areas near the craters are dangerous. There is the “Valle del Bove” to the east of the craters”, a large depression formed following the collapse of a cone several thousand years ago that plunges with a drop of 1000 meters.
The access point to the quieter and more picturesque northern slopes is Piano Provenzana (1800 m), a small ski resort about 16 kilometers upstream of Linguaglossa. The return to Piano Provenzana offers spectacular views. Further down you can enjoy pleasant summer walks in the midst of the pines, birches, and larch trees of the Pineta Ragabo, a very extensive forest reachable from the road to Mareneve between Linguaglossa and Milo.