Braving the Volcanic Eruptions of Mt Etna

Sylvia Kenny, of Leeds City College Travel & Tourism department, has just returned from a holiday on the island of Sicily and in this guest blog article she tells us how much she enjoyed the island and her trip up Mt Etna, despite the daily volcanic eruptions!

Leaving behind the green and pleasant land of England in August (particularly green this year after all the summer showers!!) it was quite a shock to find ourselves looking down on Sicily from the air and to see the arid, brown landscape. On arrival, we experienced showers of a different kind – the air was filled with fine, volcanic ash. We discovered Etna had been active throughout August – there were a series of small eruptions daily.

We were based inland from Taormina on the slopes of Mount Etna on an agri-tourism complex (a working vineyard and farm with rooms and self-catering apartments). The restaurant on site served delicious home cooked food with home produced wine. The meals included many local specialities and the emphasis was on simplicity and flavour. We enjoyed views of the coast and Mount Etna from the large swimming pool.

Our visit to Taormina was well worth the effort and made much easier by the park and ride facility and the fact that everything in the historic town is within easy walking distance. Taormina is spectacularly perched on the side of a mountain with stunning views of the Gulf of Naxos below and Mount Etna behind. We started our tour with a visit to the Teatro Greco– a near perfect amphitheatre. We wandered through the historic streets and enjoyed the gelati shops and the delis on the Corso Umberto. When you want to escape the crowded streets you can visit the public gardens, a lovely tranquil place designed by Lady Florence Trevelyan Cacciola, an 19th-century Scottish aristocrat. If you have time, you can descend to one of the many beaches using the cable-car.

Eventually we were drawn to Mount Etna. There are many different ways of visiting. You can take a tour from Catania or Taormina. As we were based on the slopes of the mountain we decided to drive to Rifugio Sapienza and to take a cable-car to 2500metres (29 euros pp). From here you can take a guided tour or explore the lunar landscape of black lava on your own. Get there early to avoid the crowds and be prepared to feel the effects of the high altitude!!

Catania is famous for its markets, particularly the noisy fish market (La Pescheria) and the food market withmountains of cheese and fruit. The city is very busy and parking is difficult so it may be worth travelling in by train or bus.

If you hire a car it is well worth paying the extra cost of the CDW. The Sicilian drivers are very aggressive and do not obey any of the rules of the road – they never stop at stop signs or roundabouts. All the cars look as though they have been in numerous accidents and you feel like you will be next!

There are many things to see and do in Sicily but it is also a great place if you just want to relax.

Here are some photographs of Sicily that Sylvia took whilst she was on holiday.

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