Sicily’s Volcanoes: Etna, Stromboli and Vulcano


Humanity has always considered volcanoes both frightening and wonderful; they have unleashed some of our wildest fantasies. There are many tales, stories and legends about these fascinating and menacing natural phenomena, from Empedocles, who hurled himself into the Etna’s crater to discover the secrets of its eruptions, to the Ostrogoth King Theodoric, who was dragged here by his maddened horse. King Arthur is also said to have who used this exceptionally powerful forge to repair the sword Excalibur (find out more aboutSicily’s myths and legends).

The tremors of the earthquakes, the smell of the smoke, the ashes, the fire and the molten rock are the tormented soul of a land full of memories. Listen to the singing of the cicadas as you view land made fertile by the lava, and as you inhale the scents of Mediterranean scrub, figs, citrus fruits, capers, broom and rosemary.

Etna, ‘a Muntagna or Mungibeddu, is one of largest active volcanoes in the world. There are fascinating routes and paths winding up through a lunar landscape, from the beautiful Taormina sea to the rarefied air of the snow-capped summit.

Not far away, there’s another spectacular natural sight: the Gole d’Alcantara. Between its lava rock walls, which are up to 50 metres in height, this canyon features spectacular basalt columns, small lakes and waterfalls of pure, clear water.

Stromboli and Vulcano, on the other hand, are the active fire giants of a volcanic archipelago: the Aeolian Islands, a treasure trove of obsidian and pumice.

Ancient documents, myths and stories talk about Hiera, the site of the forges of Hephaestus, the god of fire and a blacksmith beyond compare. This was later to become known as the Island of Vulcano.

The climb to the crater through the sulphurous gases emitted by the earth is an experience not to be missed, as are its beautiful caves and coast and its relaxing warm bath.

Stromboli, or Iddu (Him), is an ancient, seductive land, isolated and mysterious. The island is round and has black sand, reeds and broom.

The most moving way to view it is by skirting it by boat at night, when its eruptions and scarlet lapilli illuminate the night sky with red fire, as bright as the stars.

This was the inspiration for Jules Verne’s heroes in Voyage to the Centre of the Earth, and it’s where Roberto Rossellini filmed his neorealist masterpiece, Stromboli – Land of God, with the unforgettable Ingrid Bergman.

The Aeolian Islands’ volcanic heritage is not only shown by these two islands: you can see it just about everywhere, like in the collapsed caldera of Pollara in Salina. Here you can swim in a prehistoric submerged crater whose remains, shaped by fire, wind and sea, are still visible, while admiring one of the most spectacular sunsets in the world.

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