Tourists queue to take cable cars up Sicilys fiery mountain, blithely risking lava bombs. Morwenna Ferrier joins them
The best position of Mount Etna is from the gods of the ancient Greek amphitheatre in Taormina. From here it looms over this coastal township, famous for its pistachios and hosting the G7 summit, swallowing up the landscape. The snow stripes the sides, even in early summertime. Smoke plumes rise up. It seems virtually fake. At nearby Fanaberia Gelateria, though, they say that to them the volcano is always alive.
No kidding. Etna, the largest volcano in Europe, is also its most lively. Sitting on the eastern coast of Sicily, encompassing 459 square miles and comprising rocks, woodland and farmland, it erupts all the time, letting off steam with lesbian abandon, or “burping”, laughs Giuseppe, our tour guide, attempting to induce the noise.
Since destroying part of the port of Catania in 1669, Etna’s had a good running of low-key eruptions, although it returned to the press in March following an eruption which left 10 people, including a BBC crew, injured when lava mixed with snowfall, spewing out boiling rocks from a crater on the south-eastern side.
It erupts several times a year. The last one, three days before we arrive, means we cannot travel above 2,500 m. The drive up from Zafferana( historic, functioning) or Nicolosi( smaller, quainter) is looping, but an excellent way to view the changing land: it starts with woodland and small shepherd refuges. Then come the broom trees with their amber, jasmine-scented blooms and butterflies. Vineyards follow, then everything goes black, save the lichen. Lava craters dot the landscape.
Read more: www.theguardian.com