Interesting Facts About Mount Etna

A view of Mount Etna.
A view of Mount Etna.

Mount Etna, located in Sicily, Italy, is an active stratovolcano and is the highest active volcano in the whole of Europe. More specifically, it is situated in the City of Catania sandwiched between the cities of Messina and Catania. Further, it lies above the place of convergence between the Eurasian and African plate. As it stands, it is 10,922 feet high although this elevation varies with eruptions on the summit. Etna spans an area of 459 square miles with its base circumference measuring around 87 miles. Compared to the second largest active volcano, Mount Vesuvius, Etna is around two and a half times the size of Vesuvius.

Interesting Facts about Etna

Etna is a very active volcano. Since 2001, it has erupted every year with the exception of 2007. However, most of the eruptions are minor with the last major eruption taking place back in 1992. The eruptions can either occur from the crates at the top or from the vents on the sides. This active state fits the name perfectly since Etna is a Greek word that translates to “I burn.” In the Greek mythology, Aitna, daughter of Ge and Ouranos, was the goddess of the volcano. Underneath the volcano, according to Greek mythology, was a monster named Typhon who was buried by Zeus.

Due to the high number of eruptions that Etna has experienced in the past, the soil surrounding it is extremely fertile. People around Etna grow several things such as grapes, citrus fruits, and even vegetables. Estimates state that almost three-quarters of Sicily’s food needs are satisfied by the fertile region around Etna.

Being an active volcano, it is almost an inevitability that there will be loss of life and property. On March 8, 1669, in what was the biggest eruption to date, 20,000 people died. From the noxious fumes alone, 3,000 people living on the slopes died from asphyxiation. After that tragedy, molten lava was evicted from the mountain with such force that ash was seen over 100 miles from Etna. The result was the loss of another 17,000 poor souls. However, this data is still unclear since it may very well have been talking about the number of homes destroyed.

Recently, scientists have unearthed another interesting fact about Etna and the Island of Sicily in general. Scientists have now determined that the whole island of Sicily is slowly sliding towards the Mediterranean Sea. Every year, it has been determined, the whole island slides an average distance of 14 millimeters.


Sicily is a main tourist attraction around the world with Mount Etna being one of the things that draw people to the island every year. Around the mountain is the Ferrovia Circumetnea, a narrow-gauge railway that was built between 1889 and 1895. The rail measures around 68 miles, is a semi-circle, and runs from Catania to Riposto. The two ski resorts on Etna also serve as an attraction. One of the resorts is at the Sapienza Refuge while the other smaller one is at Piano Provenzana close to Linguaglossa.


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