An eruption. The dream of all tourists who come to Mt Etna. Why, then, should they visit a volcano? The eruption is the show! You look at the craters in the hope of something to happen, praying for it. And it usually happens, especially on Mt Etna. This is the most interesting active volcano in Europe. Once, in the past, you could approach a lava stream, even up to few centimetres from it.

From the 1990s on, safety laws forbid to get too close to the eruptive front. Many tour operators offer the possibility to admire that show, anyway. Our guides too, they know the way and the secret to let you enjoy eruption from safe places. It is very important that you, the tourist, cooperate for your own safety. Do not go on your own, do not disobey the rules. Here is how you should behave when you come to admire “its majesty” volcano Etna.

Appropriate clothing

First of all, and never forget that: thick, closed shoes – better if hiking shoes, thick socks, something to eat, a bottle of water and your camera, of course. Other things will change depending on how and when the eruption occurs.

If the eruption is during the day, it is good to go dressed in layers so that you can undress or cover up according to the heat. If the eruption occurs in winter and you have to face the snow, you have to dress as if you were going skiing, with suitable boots, jackets and snow poles. If the eruption occurs at night, no matter if it is summer or winter, it is always advisable to bring heavy jackets or vests with you. You will have to stay at high altitudes, with temperatures much lower than sea level ones. And since you don’t get close to the lava anymore, you won’t even have the comfort of its warmth!

It is always advisable to bring a helmet or head protection. The distance from the eruption is always a large one, and guarantees safety, but in case of explosions and relapse of volcanic material it is good to be even safer. Also bring a handkerchief or mask to protect the respiratory tract, in case of volcanic dust or sudden ash columns. Or even just in the case of a strong smell of sulfur and burning.

etna erupt (1)
lava in the Valle del Bove–photo by G.Musumeci

Where to see an eruption

The guides will always know where to lead you to admire an eruption of Etna. Although it is forbidden to approach the lava river, there are many vantage points from which you can safely watch its slow course. Normally, depending on which side is affected by the eruption, you go to admire the lava from the viewpoint of Monte Pomiciaro, from Schiena dell’Asino, from Monte Fontana, from Montagnola and from other panoramic points overlooking Valle del Bove.

Eruptions rarely affect the west flank of the volcano, but in that case the skiing above the city of Bronte is a safe and fascinating observation point. If the eruption descends quietly in the Valle del Bove, at high altitudes, respecting the distance limits, you can also admire it from inside the valley.

Never make these mistakes

NEVER go near a lava front in winter if the fire runs on the snow. When lava encounters icy crevasses or snow-covered pools it can create powerful vapor emissions and explosions that can injure or kill those who are too close.

DO NOT underestimate the directions of your guides when they keep you at a reasonable distance from an erupting crater. The sudden explosions of Etna can throw pieces of molten rock even 6 km away.

NEVER go alone into the area surrounding an eruptive front. Always stay close to your guides, because Etna is an immense volcano and you can easily get lost. And getting lost as the lava advances all around you isn’t a good situation at all. The danger you would put yourself in – and in which you would put the rescuers – would be very serious.


Autore: Grazia Musumeci


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