Etna Park – in the province of Catania
The park with the highest active volcano in Europe where you can also ski in winter
The Etna Park, located entirely in the province of Catania, covers 59,000 hectares and includes almost the entire surface of the huge volcano, ‘a Muntagna, as the Sicilians respectfully call it.
The natural environment is unique: inhabited and cultivated up to an altitude of about 1000 meters, covered with lush woods up to 1500 meters and barren and almost lunar up to the summit at 3340 meters.
This is the extraordinary landscape surrounding the highest active volcano in Europe and which, since 2013, has become a World Heritage Site.
Reaching the volcano summit is a unique and exciting experience thanks to the environment and the high mountain temperatures, astounding those who have left the torrid Sicily for a few hours.
During winter excursions it is necessary to have mountain clothing, snowshoes or cross-country skis, or mountaineering skis, crampons and an ice ax.
On a clear day, the amazing view from up there is really breathtaking! From the historic Rifugio Sapienza (Hut) in Nicolosi visitors can see the whole gulf of Catania and the Simeto valley, while from Piano Provenzana ski slopes, in the territory of Linguaglossa, they can see Taormina and the coasts of Calabria!
In winter visitors can ski on Etna!! Winter sports such as alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski mountaineering, snowboarding, and sleddog are practiced in the two ski resorts, generally from mid-December to late spring.
On the southern slope, visitors can use a 6-seater cable car, a two-seater chairlift and three ski lifts for a ski area of about 10 km of slopes. The north slope is equipped with three ski lifts and a chairlift.
To get to the top visitors can choose to be accompanied by an authorized guide starting from Nicolosi or go up with the cable car up to the 2,900 m of the Torre del Filosofo.
With each eruption, Etna changes its appearance and even height. At the moment the summit is at 3340 meters but over the years it has been even higher!
On the top, there are 3 craters: the central crater (with Voragine and Bocca nuova mouths), the northeast crater and the southeast crater.
South of the central crater, at 2,500 meters above sea level, there is Montagnola, one of the main cones of the volcano formed during the eruption in 1763.
Later, during the eruption in 1892 five eruptive cones took shape, now known as the Silvestri Mountains. In between them passes the road that leads to Sapienza Hut.
Inside the Etna Park there are over two hundred caves, known since ancient times. The most famous, certainly worth visiting, are the cave of Lamponi, Tre Levelli, Frost (Grotta del Gelo) and Palombe. According to the legend, King Arthur lived in a castle on Etna, whose entrance would be one of the many mysterious caves.
And finally, visitors have to see the famous Valle del Bove, a huge basin of 7 by 5 kilometers with walls reaching up to a thousand meters in height.
20 municipalities with a population of about 250 thousand inhabitants can be found within the Park territory:
– Adrano, Belpasso, Biancavilla, Bronte, Castiglione di Sicilia, Giarre, Linguaglossa, Maletto, Mascali, Milo, Nicolosi, Pedara, Piedimonte Etneo, Ragalna, Randazzo, Sant’Alfio, Santa Maria di Licodia, Trecastagni, Viagrande, Zafferana Etnea…
The headquarters of the Etna Park Authority is located in Nicolosi in the beautiful Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolò La Rena.
(Photos from the Facebook page of the park)
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