Facts about Mount Etna

We found 21 facts about Mount Etna

One of the highest active volcanoes in Europe

Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and remains in a state of activity all the time - the last eruption took place in February 2022.

Despite this, the region where it is located is inhabited and agriculture, cultivation of vines, citrus fruits, olive and fig trees is developing there. Above all, Etna is one of the main tourist attractions of Sicily, visited by thousands of tourists every year. It is also one of the seven Sicilian UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Mount Etna
Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily.

It is located within the metropolitan area of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania.

In Sicilian it bears the name Mongibello.

It is one of the highest active volcanoes in Europe.

It is also the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps. Its current height is 3357 meters (July 2021), although this varies depending on peak eruptions.

During the six months of 2021, Etna erupted so much volcanic material that its height increased by about 30.5 meters, and its southeast crater has now become the highest part of the volcano.

Etna covers an area of 1,250 square kilometers (482 square miles) with a base circumference of 135 kilometers (83,9 miles).

This makes it the largest of Italy's three active volcanoes (Etna, Vesuvius, Stromboli) and about two and a half times as high as the next largest, Vesuvius.

Only Teide on Tenerife (Canary Islands) surpasses it in the entire Euro-North African region west of the Black Sea.

Etna is the oldest stratovolcano on Earth - it was formed in the late Pleistocene and Holocene.

The first volcanic activity on Etna took place about 500,000 years ago, with eruptions occurring under the sea off the ancient coast of Sicily.

The volcano formed in the direction of the western axis, and as a result of later eruptions and the filling of the bay with solidified lava, a volcanic cone named Callanna was formed (about 168-100 thousand years ago).

In the following years, the cone Trifoglietto I was formed, which was covered by Trifoglietto II (about 80-64 thousand years ago). The collapse of Trifoglietto II led to the formation of the Valle del Bove caldera.

The volcano began to form about 34-30 thousand years ago.

About 20-15 thousand years ago, as a result of a strong explosion, the then existing Ellittico cone formed a caldera with a diameter of about 4 km. In place of the caldera, the Mongibello cone (Etna) was formed, which still towers over Sicily.

Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity.

Because of the volcano's history, its highly destructive eruptions, and its proximity to densely populated areas, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) has included Etna in the Decade of Volcanoes (16 volcanoes are included).

The Decade of Volcanoes is a project initiated in the 1990s as part of the International Decade for Disaster Reduction sponsored by UN.

The stratovolcano extends from north to south and has the shape of an ellipse with a size of 47 x 38 km (29.2 x 23.6 mi).

On the eastern slope is the caldera Valle del Bove with steep walls up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft) deep in the shape of a 5 x 10 km (3.1 x 6.2 mi) horseshoe. 

Etna has four active craters and more than 270 inactive side craters on its slopes.
  • Bocca Nuova and Voragine were formed from the central crater in 1945 and 1968
  • The northeast crater, which is the highest point of the volcano (formed in 1911)
  • The southeast crater, which was formed in 1971


Etna's volcanic activity is one of the best documented in the world.

The first records of eruptions date back to 1500 BC. It is estimated that there have been about 200 eruptions since then.

In 396 BC, the eruption of Mount Etna probably thwarted an attempted Carthaginian assault on Syracuse during the Second Sicilian War.

The strongest eruption is said to have lasted from March 11 to July 11, 1669, when the volcano ejected so much lava that it covered an area of about 37 square kilometers. It flowed about 16 km, destroying several villages along the way. It reached the sea and Catania, partially destroying it.

An exemplary attempt was then made to change the course of the lava by digging a trench - the first such attempt in the world.

Since 1750, seven eruptions of Etna have lasted more than 5 years, more than any other volcano except Vesuvius.

A number of villages lie directly at the foot of the volcano.

They are inhabited by about 213,200 people, the largest number being in Adrano, which lies on the southern side of the volcano, with 34,490 people. There are 78 people living within 5 km of the volcano.

Etna moves toward the Mediterranean Sea at an average speed of 14 mm per year.

The massif moves on an unconsolidated layer over older, sloping terrain.

In 1971, lava from the volcano destroyed the Etna Observatory, built at the end of the 19th century.

It also destroyed the first generation of Etna's cable car and seriously threatened several small villages on its eastern slope.

In 2002-2003, a powerful eruption ejected a huge column of ash that could be seen from space.

This ash fell in Libya, 600 km south across the Mediterranean Sea. The seismic activity during this eruption caused the eastern slopes of the volcano to shift by up to two meters, and many houses on the slopes of the volcano suffered structural damage.

Footage of the eruption was recorded by Lucasfilm and incorporated into the landscape of the planet Mustafar in the 2005 film "Star Wars: Part III - Revenge of the Sith."

The eruption, which occurred on the morning of May 13, 2008, immediately east of Etna's summit craters, was accompanied by more than 200 earthquakes and significant ground deformation in the Etna area.

The eruption lasted 417 days until July 6, 2009, making it the longest eruption on Etna's flank since the 1991-1993 eruption, which lasted 473 days.

The March 16, 2017 eruption injured 10 people, including a BBC News television crew, after magma exploded on contact with snow.

Starting in February 2021, Etna began a series of explosive eruptions that affected nearby villages and towns, with volcanic ash and rocks falling as far away as Catania.

By March 12, 2021, the volcano had erupted 11 times in three weeks. The eruptions have thrown clouds of ash more than 10 kilometers into the air closing Sicily's airports.

The last major eruption took place on February 11, 2022.

In the 1970s, smoke circles (a vortex ring formed by smoke in a clear atmosphere) appeared on Etna.

This was one of the first recorded events of this type, which are extremely rare. This happened again in 2000, and another event occurred in 2013.

In June 2013, Etna was designated a World Heritage Site at UNESCO.

In 1987, Etna Regional Park was created as a protected area around the volcano. The 580 km2 (360 sq mi) park is home to nearly 200 caves that were formed by flowing lava and used by humans as shelters, burial sites or for snow storage.

The fertile volcanic soils around Etna favor extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards stretching across the lower slopes of the mountain and the plain of Catania to the south.

The vineyards there cover an area of about 2,900 hectares. There are also olive, citrus and fig groves.

The Greeks had vineyards in this area as early as the 6th century BC.

Etna also has its own legends. According to Greek and Roman mythology, the god Vulcan (gr. Hephaestus ) had his forge beneath Mount Etna.

One of the oldest legends says that the volcano Etna was created when Zeus could not bear the behaviour of Typhon - the most terrible of all giants, the father of all living monsters on Earth. Zeus knocked him down into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea and threw Sicily on him, which crushed him. The giant cannot free himself, and when he tries, he lets out a great scream while boiling lava pours from his mouth.

Christians, too,have their stories associated with the place.

Peter Skarga, in his "Lives of the Saints", writes about St. Agatha, a Sicilian martyr and patroness of Catania. When the Roman governor of Sicily decided to kill the saint in the third century, the volcano Etna came to life and began to wreak havoc. The citizens of Catania took the veil of the martyr and moved towards the lava, which at that moment stopped and the eruption ceased.

St. Agatha became the patron saint of the city.

Etna is one of Sicily's main tourist attractions, visited by thousands of tourists every year.

There are two ski resorts on Mount Etna.

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