On December 2, 2015 Steve and I were lucky enough to travel to Sicily and take a tour bus to the largest volcano in Europe, Mount Etna. As Mt. Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world we were also lucky enough to miss the eruption that happened less than 24 hours after we visited.
Steve and I had traveled to Sicily as a stop on a cruise and after doing some research decided to take a tour bus from the port in Catania to the nearby volcano.
After an hour on the bus we reached the Sapienza Refuge, which lies south of the two main craters, Bocca Nuova and Voragine. From there we walked to the craters on crunchy, reddish black volcanic rock. With so little vegetation and unfamiliar stones, it was like an alien planet. While the temperature when we left our ship had been in the upper 70’s, on Mt. Etna it had dropped to the upper 50s with a wind that was so strong it nearly knocked me over. I left Etna satisfied and thrilled by the idea that I had just climbed (alright and driven to) my first volcano. Steve and I returned to our ship and sailed away from Sicily and Etna.
Two days later, we left the cruise ship, had access to the Internet again, and found that Mt. Etna had erupted less than a day after we were there. We looked at images of the volcano and could hardly believe that the docile mountain we stood on could explode so fiercely. Video footage of the event showed volcanic ash falling on the city of Catania. It was like a hailstorm of dark, black rock, but the most interesting part of the video was seeing people outside going about their lives and simply carrying umbrellas to keep stones from hitting them.
I fell in love with the complete foreignness of Mt. Etna, and as it turns out, the locals love the volcano just as much as foreigners. Even though the volcano constantly threatens their homes and way of life, the locals refer to it as “Mongibello,” the beautiful mountain. After seeing it, I can understand why.