For our first excursion as a group from Syracuse Academy in Sicily, we journeyed about an hour and fifteen minutes north to hike Mt.Etna. Mt. Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and has a huge daily, agricultural, and geological impact on life in eastern Sicily. In my Mediterranean Food Systems course we learned of how Mt. Etna is the reason why the surrounding farms are able to produce natural blood oranges due to the vast difference in temperature between the day and night, causing the oranges to change color in order to protect themselves against both extreme temperatures.
The journey there consisted of a huge group of us in a bus ascending up some of the tightest roads I have ever seen and at some points we were unsure of whether or not the bus would make it around the curve or not, but thankfully it did. Before arriving at the hike we were able to try Etna honey and Pistachio Crema (kind of like nutella but made with pistachios) and both were more delicious than I expected (I even bought two Pistachio Cremas). Honestly, I’ve hiked a lot of mountains in my life from the Grand Tetons in Wyoming to the Shenandoah’s in Virginia, and a lot in between, but hiking a volcano was a whole new experience. From Siracusa, where I live, we can see the shadow of Mt. Etna and the smoke billowing from the highest peak most days of the week, so being able to see this so close up was life-changing! We hiked craters created as far back as 1669 and as recently as 2001 as to gain an understanding of the impact that these large explosions have on the landscape of the volcano. We were also educated on how the landscape of most local seasides have all been created by the lava flow reaching the coast during major eruptions. As they were all different ages, we witnessed multiple kinds of basalt and other sulfuric rocks created by the past eruptions.
When we reached the highest point permitted to hike in a school excursion like we were, we took tons of pictures (two of which are displayed below!!). The view stretched all the way to the city of Catania and the coast. That night while staying in Taormina, a seaside town with extraordinary archaeological history, we were able to witness the lava flow down the side of the mountain after the sunset, it was like something out of a fairytale. To go from seeing the smoke from that lava flow every day to witnessing the bright orange and red stream down the mountainside was incredible! Needless to say, if you’re ever in eastern Sicily and have the opportunity I would highly recommend to take half of a day and hike the largest active volcano in Europe :))