Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe, with a height of over 3300 m and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Etna is well-known for its violent eruptions, the biggest one occurred in 1669 when approximately 20.000 people died. The eruption destroyed 15 villages and part of Catania. The last volcanic eruption has taken place recently, in March 2017, when at least 10 persons were injured.
When it is not a real danger for near inhabitants, Etna is like a towering guardian, creating spectacular views from Catania and Taormina (the view from Greek Theatre is incredible!) It is also a very touristic destination.
Before deciding to visit Etna, I have doubted if it is safe to visit it or no but the comments from the forums have convinced me to visit it. And it definitely worth it!
It is very important to visit Etna on a sunny day otherwise it is possible to encounter fog and very cold weather. Nevertheless, at approx 2500 m there is always cold and windy so be prepared with a jacket and sweaters.
Tips! If you do not have warm clothes, you can buy from the shops (they are well equipped) or rent clothes (you will find this at 2500, as soon as you get out from the cable car, on the right side).
How to get there from Catania
There is only one bus which crosses the route per day. The bus leaves Catania at 8:15 and leaves from Etna at 16:15 o`clock. The journey takes approximately 2 hours with one stop (25 minutes) in Nicolosi for breakfast.
The company is called AST (Azienda Siciliana Trasporti). You can feel a bit lost as in the bus station there is no bus timetable displayed and you may feel that you will miss the bus. I recommend you to buy the ticket in advance (the ticket shop is close to the bus station, on Via Don Luigi Sturzo) and then just go to the bus station and wait. The bus does not have a predefined platform but you will not miss it (as the bus station is pretty small).
If there are a lot of tourists, they will go with 2 buses so don`t worry, everyone has a place on board.
The cost is approximately 6, 60 euro/person one way.
The bus will leave you at Rifugio Sapienza, at a height of 1900m above sea level and at 16:15 will leave Catania from exactly the same place.
Tips! Around Rifugio Sapienza, there are some volcano craters which you shouldn`t miss.
To start your journey on the volcano, the easiest way is to get the cable car that takes you up to 2500 meters. The cable cars are small, designed only for 6 persons (6 seats so you can enjoy the stunning view while seated) and are very safe. The cable car costs 30 euros per person/return.
Tips! Always check the cable`s timetable (usually the last one leaves at 4 pm)
I am really afraid of taking the cable car in general and the funny part was that the cable car stopped for some minutes and I was really panicked, waiting to start its journey again. We could hear the wind blowing and the cable car was moving a bit due to strong currents. Fortunately, in some minutes (that passed like days) we were again moving so everything ended well. The view from the cable car was a bit “apocalyptic”.
View from cable car:
Other ways to get to 2500 meters are: hiking (if you are an adventurous person) or book a jeep. However, hiking can be pretty challenging due to the dust (and there is a lot! whenever a jeep is passing by, you should stop and wait for the dust to disappear) and windy weather.
Once there, you can hike up to 2950 m or take the 4×4. Due to the very windy and cold weather (even if in Catania there were 30 degrees!) we limited ourselves to the 2500 meters area and visited the surroundings.
The volcano is very spectacular, once arrived at 2500 m, you can walk freely in the zone, admiring the ground hardened and the slimes. You can also have a look at the Catania landscape. What I didn`t like is that there is a lot of dust from the jeeps that are moving around.