Saturday, June 27, 2009

Magmaaaa and Mount Etna

The lovely view from the train, on our way eastward towards Catania.

For our third weekend trip, we decided to venture to the eastmost cities of Sicily and give hiking Mount Etna a go! We took a train (12 ish euros one way, 3 hours) to the city of Catania, our "base" for the weekend. Catania has been described as Sicily's most vibrant city, second largest to Palermo, but generally felt it was a bit sleepy and small until night descends and everyone hits the streets for partying and dinner. Not one of our favorite cities, and our hostel was, as described in the guest comment book, "NOISIEST HOSTEL EVER", I couldn't agree more- we were right above train tracks which Lonely Planet conveniently forgot to mention.

Lets learn a little about Mount Etna! I've always loved the idea of a volcano and got to see some volcanic activity when I visited Hawaii a few years ago, but something about the ancient history of these Mediterranean lava spewers is more intriquing.

Mount Etna- "Sicily's most prominent landmark [yes, but not too impressive when not active] is Europe's largest live volcano and one of the world's most volatile. At 3,323m it towers over the Ionian Coast, dwarfing everything beneath it, its smoking peak is visible from almost everywhere on this side of the island, and is heart-stirring [quite beautiful from coast side cities!]." (Thank you Lonely Planet). Mount Etna has existed since 35,000 years ago [awe inspiring huh?] with a history littered with eruptions, some as recent as September 2007 [I guess we just missed some action, thankfully]. The most devastating eruption was in 1669 and lasted 122 days [wow!], destroying 16 towns and engulfing a good part of Catania.

We took a cheap bus to the base town of Etna, then a crazy expensive funicular, Funivia dell' Etna (27 euros for both ways, eek!), but worth the oppurtunity we got to climb up to the highest point tourists were allowed. Mount Etna is a bit of a tourist trap, they were advertising a 51 euro package to take the funicular, get bused up to the highest point, and have guides, but we were determined to hike up ourselves! It was a pretty short hike (90 minutes going up), but really steep, and lots of cardio got me a bit grumpy hehe. The landscape was completely barren, covered with volcanic ash and rock. Thankfully it was a cloudy day, and we made our way slowly as busloads of tourists passed us on the dusty road.

We made it to the top! Pretty tired, but check out the ridge on one or Etna's craters. We climbed up.
Lots of vapor, no magmaaa, but interesting nonetheless.
The earth and stones were warm! Neato! Xiao and Dan warm their hands, did I mention it was freezing up at the top? brrrr.
Finally, some color on the crater's edge.
Go team! We descended very quickly back down and wasted a few hours in the cafe and tourist village. We were lucky because right after we descended the weather got horrible and no one else was allowed up.
Tired, but ash-free after showering, we hit up Catania nightlife and absolutely loved this local, packed restaurant near the Piazza Diumo. We ate a ton and then Dan convinced us to try grappa for the first time. Strong stuff, eckk! But fun ensued.


Kaapi Prash said...

It was fun reading your holiday account. Great going! Cheers to more of such fun filled holidays ... of course, sans the noise and cardio!!!

NLee said...

omg that mountain looks ridiculously tall.

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