Dominating the landscape of eastern Sicily, Mount Etna is a massive brooding presence. At 3329m, it is Italy’s highest mountain south of the Alps and the largest active volcano in Europe. It’s in an almost constant state of activity, and eruptions occur frequently, most spectacularly from the four summit craters, but more often – and more dangerously – from the fissures and old craters on the mountain’s flanks. This activity, which is closely monitored by 120 seismic activity stations and satellites, means that it is occasionally closed to visitors.
Since 1987, the volcano and its slopes have been part of a national park, the Parco dell’Etna. Encompassing 590 square km and some 21 towns, the park’s varied landscape ranges from the severe, snow-capped mountaintop to lunar deserts of barren black lava, beech woods and lush vineyards where the area’s highly rated DOC wine is produced.