Thursday, March 24, 2016

Catania - Day Trip to Mount Etna

Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the world according to wikipedia, looms over Catania and surrounds. Many daytrippers like ourselves take the public AST bus from Catania to Refugio Sapienza at 1910 meters (~6200 feet) then walk or funicular or jeep up to 2500 meters, then walk up to 2900 meters, the highest point accessible to tourists/hikers; Etna's summit is at 3,329 meters or 10,922 ft.

In March the higher slopes of Mount Etna are covered in snow, so we planned to link 3 short hikes, starting at Refugio Sapienza, into a longer hike that stayed below 2000 meters. However, the weather looked to be uncooperative, with reports of snow, wind and rain at 2000 meters. And our own visual sightings of Etna found it almost always covered in clouds.

But on Palm Sunday morning, our last full day in Sicily, we caught the 8:15 am bus to Refugio Sapienza. Lucky for us the weather report for 1900 meters called for sun, high temperature of 50 F, and winds about 20 mph. Unfortunately as we headed up and up, the bus hit the snow line at 1600 meters and we could see that one of trails we intended to hike was covered in snow. Hmm. What to do? It's about 10:00 and the return bus is scheduled for 4:30. Over 6 hours to kill.

To make a long story shorter, we had a great time. Many locals drove up to Etna to enjoy snow activities, mainly sledding and making snowmen. There is more than one road to Refugio Sapienza, so we first walked east for a few kilometers, then west. It turned out to be a great day at Etna. However, we'll have to return one day, not in the winter, to do some more hiking.

Etna from about 1800 meters, approaching Refugio Sapienza
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Refugio Sapienza is a group of cafes, souvenir stands, hotels, and parking lots, at the base of the chair lift. That's Silvestri Crater at right.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

After getting off the bus we headed over to walk around the rim of the Silvestri Crater, a must-do for all Etna visitors: the tour buses park right in front of it. ;-)
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

The rim of Silvestri was very windy. Sun-Ling was terrified she would be blown either into the crater or over the side. But we made it around.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Folks were sledding both inside and outside of the crater; and having lots of fun.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

After surviving Silvestri we headed east on the plowed roads, slowly descending to 1700 meters, eating lunch with a view, then returning.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

It was a beautiful day, even the cyclists were out.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Although we were above the snow line, we were below the tree line.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Lunch view.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Random shot.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Sledders.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

After watching the sledding for a bit, we descended west to the 1800 meter mark and then back.
Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna - Catania, Sicily, Italy

3 comments:

DayleInNC said...

Loved reading your post this a.m. about being on a snowy Etna! That looks like a steep drop for the sledders. You weren't tempted?

LiZ said...

Looks like a fun adventure although cold!

john said...

@Dayle, It was very steep. Many of the "sledders" on the exterior of Silvestri had no sled; they just threw themselves down the slope. Woohoo! It was somewhat tempting but not easy enough - I don't have the exuberance of the Italians. ;-)

@Liz, The wind made it cold. A few times we were walking/sitting in the sun with no wind and we were quite cozy albeit with 4 upper and 2 lower layers of clothing.