Italy Day 13 (8 Dec 22) – Catania: Hiking Trip Up The Tallest Volcano in Europe – Mt Etna & Our Last Dinner in Italy

Hiking up Mt Etna

Driving towards Mt Etna

Today would be another highlight of our trip, we are hiking up Mt Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe. This is the very reason we included Catania in our Italian itinerary. We booked our guided tour with EtnAround, who was highly knowledgeable on the history, fauna and flora on Mt Etna (the same tour can be booked from here). We met up with one of our guides, Alessio, at the pick-up point at 8.30 am. Alessio drove us to one of the towns at the foot of Mt Etna to meet up with the tour leader, Marco, and the rest of the group and to get our sandwiches for lunch at Mt Etna. Along the way up to Mt Etna, Alessio continued introducing the flora at the base of Mt Etna. Before long, we reached a carpark of some sort. This was the starting point of our hike on Mt Etna. Marco explained that we were at 1,800m above sea level and would hike up to around 2,500m on the volcano before heading back down. As Macro and Alessio were preparing the gear for the group, we took the chance to take pictures of the surroundings. We could only see a vast piece of land and the road leading up to a small crater sitting far in the background.

Early morning on the streets of Catania
We can faintly see Mt Etna that we will be scaling today

A church in the town with Mt Etna in the background
Our guide, Alessio, told us this is the way people used and still travel in this town

And Our Hike Begins…

As we were starting our hike, we faced a tall slope that seemed to lead nowhere. We saw the peak of Mt Etna hiding behind the hill as though she was peeking at us. We were very excited with our first step on the volcano terrain was unlike what we thought. The soil on the volcano was soft and grainy. This feels more like the sands of a beach but looser as our feet begin to sink into the ground. The first part of the trek was easy, as the path gradient was gentle. Along the way, Marco explained the importance of the flora we saw spreading around the area we were stepping into. Alessio, who was at the back of the group to ensure that none of us was lost during the hike, constantly looked around the ground and sometimes picked up rocks he found on the ground. Alessio explained to the pack of us at the back of the group that this was a volcanic rock that came out of the crater. Anything larger will be capable of causing hurt to humans and properties.

The route we took today on Mt Etna

Wefie on Mt Etna with her fuming peak

Lunch with a View

As we continued our hike up Mt Etna, we reached a grassland. Walking on this part of the volcano feels like walking on flat ground. At the trail’s end, we came across some boulders that we would have to scale. As we climbed up these boulders, the peak of the snow-covered Mt Etna with fumes of white smoke emitting was in our sight. We were amazed by this incredible view of the gentle lady that we were on. Looking out into the area, we saw a crater-like depression that seemed to stretch forever. As we were walking along the path, the path got narrower and narrower to the point that it was just as wide as two feet wide. One misstep would mean we would fall into the valley below, and there were no barricades would shield us from the potential danger of falling over. However, we had trust in Marco and Alessio that we were well watched over. Marco announced that we would stop for lunch at the trail’s end. We all found a huge boulder to sit on and started munching on the sandwich we had bought earlier. What we saw ahead was the peak of Mt Etna with her endless white fumes and, at times, low clouds passing over her. The view is a one in a million! This is a perfect spot to have lunch while looking at Mt Etna and enjoying the mountain breeze.

My friends on our way to the 2500m height of Mt Etna

Lunchtime at 2500m high on Mt Etna

The Return Journey

After 15 mins, Macro announced for us to start our hike down to where we started. Instead of going through the same route, we took a different way. We hiked upslope and boulders, putting the view of Mt Etna behind us. As we walked, we came to a part where we needed to descend. Alessio assured us we could run down the slope without worrying that we would tip over the edge. I had a go at it, and it was fun (though I thought it would be more fun if we had some sledge down the slope). The volcanic ashes here are more coarse and looser. We soon come across a lava channel. Gone was the lava that once flowed through this channel. All that remained were rocks that the lava had once smashed through. Another downslope later, Marco brought us to a lava cave. He explained how this cave was formed and how the locals used this cave. We were taken inside to feel the temperature difference. We continued on the path, and suddenly the path felt familiar. This was where we were when we hiked up. I exclaimed to my friends. We are near the end of the hike. Soon after, we can see the vehicles we drove up on.

We are at the bottom of the slop

My friend on the path of our Mt Etna hike
My friends on their way down Mt Etna

After returning to our vehicles, Alessio said we would stop by a cafe on Mt Etna for coffee. So we were driven to a cafe which was closed. At this point, we realise that the destination is not this cafe but the crater behind the cafe. The short walk around the crater allowed us to see what a crater looked like. Alessio explained this is just one of the hundreds of craters on Mt Etna, and every year the volcanologists would find one new crater on Mt Etna. After the crater visit, we had some coffee, and soon it was time for us to bid Mt Etna farewell.

Few of the many craters on Mt Etna
The peak of Mt Etna and the crater

Last Look at Catania

Alessio drove us back to Catania. The plan today was that if we got back to Catania at around 3 pm, we might still be able to squeeze in a visit to Ursino Castle, just 15 mins walk from our hotel. We arrived at Catania city at around 4.30 pm. There is little time for us to visit the castle before it closes. We walked to the city centre for our last dinner in Italy. We asked the friendly waitress about the fried rice ball we had heard so much about during dinner. She gave us some recommendations, and one of them is located about 5 mins walk from our hotel. We headed to get some rice balls and picked up gelatos before returning to the hotel to pack our luggage for our journey home tomorrow.

Our last dinner in Italy

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