During my visit to Italy, I spent 4 days in beautiful Taormina. From the terrace in the main square there is a fabulous view of the ever-present and, for this year at least, the ever-active Mt Etna… 18 eruptions in 2011 and counting! On the afternoon of October 8th, Etna had a brief but violent eruption.
The next morning my travelling companion and I decided to “play tourist” and drive out to Etna to take the cable-car to the top. The drive from Taormina is very straightforward – it is well signed – and was approximately half-an-hour. At the base of the mountain is a large car-park with shops/toilets/cafes (no culinary experiences to be had here, just average Italian fast-food).
To get up to the top of Etna you first need to take the cable-car – the station is at the car-park. From the cable-car station at the top you can then either walk up to the crater or you can join a 4WD mini-bus tour. You then need to hop off the mini-bus and walk a few minutes to the crater.
A word of warning… weather can change in an instant at such altitudes. When we left Taormina it was a very pleasant autumn day (about 24 degrees Celsius), when we arrived at the car-park the car temperature gauge was showing 8 degrees Celsius. It was still a lovely sunny day while we were heading up in the cable-car – you can see the photo.
Once we got to the cable-car station at the top it started to snow. By the time we got to the crater we were in blizzard-like conditions, and as our mini-bus came back down the mountain we had to stop to pick up walkers who were caught in the snowstorm.
Good to know: you can hire jackets and boots from the cable-car station at the top (we opted for jackets only, make sure you have closed-in shoes – if not, then the boots are probably a good idea). I would recommend that you take some extra layers of clothing no matter the time of year, just in case. And if you are planning to walk up the volcano make sure you consult an expert guide in advance.
Unfortunately we were unable to see anything of the crater at the top as visibility was so poor, nonetheless it was an exciting experience and a lot of fun once we had thawed out!
by Lisa Kurtz.