The spectacular history of the highest volcano in Europe began approximately 600,000 years ago in a large gulf 40 km wide in the Ionian Sea along the Eastern side of Sicily. The volcanic activity was submerged until numerous eruptive centres were created on the surface. The most important of these centres is called Mount Calanna and is found close to Zaffferana. Eighty thousands years ago two other centres (Trifoglietto I and Trifoglietto II) in the same area violently erupted and produced an enormous quantity of lava which over the next 20,000 years completely filled the entire gulf with lava.
The intense activity finished when the two volcanoes collapsed due to the decline of the magma pressure and an extraordinary large valley was formed stretching 5 km wide named Valle del Bove. Just 34,000 years ago the activity began in the crater that is visible today known as Etna or Mongibello; its eruptions were subsequently responsible for completely filling up the original gulf and forming the Sicilian coast that is so admired today.
What is most interesting for tourists and Etna lovers is to witness the periodic explosions of the volcano that can reach hundreds of metres into the sky and therefore can be seen from long distances. However, Etna’s nature reserve offers the tourist various activities on its slopes all the year round such as cross country skiing, trekking and mountain biking giving the participant the opportunity to experience Etna’s diverse landscape.Due to the fact that the mountain begins at sea level and extends to 3340 metres above sea level different landscapes have been created each having their own distinct flora and fauna.
Visitors to the mountain should not be surprised to find themselves moving between the contrast of lava desert and old woods of ancient oak, birch and beech trees. This territory has still more interesting sights to offer for example its unique caves formed when the lava took an underground route, its vineyards and its orange and lemon groves. The visitor to this territory will appreciate its peculiarity and its impact on its inhabitants who have demonstrated the ability of the human being to adapt to the forces of nature.