On Monday, four wheel drive vehicles picked us up at the hotel and drove us half way up the 10,000 foot high Mount Etna. When we left, the top of Etna was clearly visible and you could see smoke and steam arising from at least one of the four summit craters. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the vehicle to get the picture. By the time we got to a place where I could take a picture, the summit was in the clouds. Our guide said this was the normal pattern.There are thirteen towns built on the slopes of Mount Etna that circle the base of the mountain. We only drove through a couple of them before turning to go up the mountain. One of them had been damaged by an earthquake last Christmas and still had significant visible damage. This church had vertical cracks on both sides of the door and both sides of the clock.
These birch trees, one of the five most endangered trees in the world are found on the slopes of Etna. They are distinguished by growing in clumps, though they will sometimes grow as single trees as shown on the left of the bottom photo.
Our hiking destination was this cinder cone at an elevation of 5000 feet. There were not many people there when we arrived; but when we were leaving, they were arriving by the bus load. The cone looks much higher in the picture than it really is.
Some views along the walk.Proof we made it to the top.This is the hole from which the lava emerged. There are numerous lava eruptions that have occurred at lower elevations. For reasons unclear to me, it is not possible for a second eruption at these holes; so we were in no danger. Mount Etna is the most active volcano in Europe.
We drove on a paved road to get to our hike. After we all returned to our vehicles without falling, we did a little four wheel driving on a dirt path until we reached another paved road.Clearly, falling that road sign is not going to do us any good. If we turned the other way, we encountered this:Seventeen years ago, a lava flow had blocked the road up the mountain, and a new cement road had to be built nearby.
Unfortunately, I forgot the name of these cool looking mushrooms. The top one was spotted about fifty feet off the road by a driver while navigating a rock covered, narrow dirt road filled with numerous holes. The bottom picture shows one of the same mushrooms after it has opened. They are edible.
In the evening we visited Palazzo Biscari which has about 700 rooms. The tour is led by its occupant, Prince Ruggero Moncada who tells numerous stories about his family. Unfortunately, I had great trouble understanding him; so I am unable to tell you anything about him.The rooms we visited were sparsely finished and in need of refurbishing, but they had been quite impressive at one time.We passed by the university on the way back to our hotel.