Mount Etna looms over Sicily as a nearly constant presence. She’s in the backdrop almost everywhere on our side of the island, and the rocky, volcanic shorelines, lava stone furniture, and buildings made of volcanic rock remind us of what she is – beautiful and scenic, but at any moment could start spitting fire. Etna is the most active volcano in Europe, and at almost 11,000 feet tall, is hard to ignore. Since we’ve been here we’ve been on the lookout for eruptions, but hadn’t seen any until now. She started erupting a few days ago, so Sean and I took the opportunity to drive up and check it out.
We felt a little bit like the movie Twister meets Dante’s Peak, neither of which have very ideal outcomes, but the roads were open and the people in the towns below the eruption didn’t seem too concerned. This does happen relatively frequently and the eruptions are usually small and constant as opposed to large ones that wipe everybody out.
We waited until it was getting dark, and then started driving up the road we had heard you could see it from. On the way up, we caught little glimpses of it here and there, and we could hear the rumblings in the distance. They sounded like someone was taking very large garbage cans out. We rounded a corner and caught our first full view of it. Quite spectacular.
We went further up, seeing how close we could get, and found a large parking area where a lot of people were congregating. It had a great view, but it wasn’t quite dark yet so we drove up the mountain a bit further. We reached the peak of the road without any better spots to see it, so we turned back around and headed back to the parking area.
By the time we got back there, patches of clouds had started rolling in and we thought maybe we’d missed our chance for clear views. The clouds provided a pretty cool backdrop though, glowing and flashing every time she erupted. It looked like the mouth of hell was opening over her.