Mount Etna (largest active volcano in Europe) and Catania
Mount Etna Travel Blog› entry 11 of 20 › view all entries
Wednesdayâ€™s schedule called for â€śindividual course itineraries,â€ť meaning we were committed to no prearranged activities. So we all took a bus to Catania where we split off into our different departments. My group went first to visit the largest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna. This was another tour that I had been excited about since we first arrived in Sicily. We could see the mountain appear in the distance and stopped to take pictures from the road for some pictures with the smoking peak in the background.
I had never before seen an active volcano much less ridden to the top of one.
Our tour guide spoke only Italian, so we mostly wondered around by ourselves. At one point I began my ascent toward the smoldering eruptive vent, but the guide, fumbling to find the words in English and gesturing with his hand, warned me, â€śNo no, you go higher you get rocks in headâ€¦ is forbidden.â€ť I was a little disappointed that I wasnâ€™t able to observe glowing hot magma in mouth of the volcano, but I was still happy to get as close as we did (about half a kilometer short of the crater). Valle de Leone, an enormous basin with steep slopes, was perhaps the most impressive feature. I took a ton of pictures and brought back several types of lava rock and clumps of ash as souvenirs. The light rocks, I learned, were from material blasted into the air and the heavier, darker rocks oozed out in lava flows.
After surveying all of the accessible areas for a couple of hours we began our decent. Half way down the mountain, we stopped for lunch at La Cantoniera, a restaurant, bar, and gift shop (later in the year, I would learn that Etna erupted again, and a lava flow had destroyed La Cantoniera). As we negotiated the twists and turns of the road we passed Silvestri Crater, a former eruption site, and approached a house that was buried under ash and rock. Our driver stopped the bus to let us take a few quick pictures, but Dr. DeLaura and Charlene, insisting that we were in a hurry and instructed the driver not to let us out to investigate the building more closely.
Joe, the shyest student in our group, happened to have relatives living in the area, so Charlene arranged for us to meet with them and we had a very nice visit. After spending time with Joeâ€™s family we went to downtown Catania and toured the city starting from Catania Duomo. The mostly subterranean Odeon ruins (a 2nd century BC Roman Amphitheatre) were not open to enter, but we had a decent view through the fence from street level. From there Behn and I walked around the city with the two Sarahs from the History department and came upon Giardino Villa Bellini, a large, inviting park and garden. Behn and I sat on the wall along the steps beside a group of elderly men while Sarah took a photo.
Following our afternoon in Catania, we were able to get some rest on the bus back Ortigia. It was about a two-hour drive and everyone was exhausted, so the downtime was a relief. When we arrived at the Domus Mariae, I relaxed a little bit before we gathered the troops and headed out to the bars.