The place we now call the Valle del Bove (the valley of the ox) is actually the still visible testimony of a huge geological tragedy that occurred about 10,000 years ago. At that time Etna was a much higher volcano than now, conical in shape, that at a certain point exploded, halving its size and assuming a new structure, but very unstable.
Because of this instability and some important climatic events, the eastern flank of the volcano collapsed causing the detachment of the entire upper part. The gigantic landslide that this generated, which traces are found up to the coast, between Stazzo and Riposto, opened a basin 5 km wide, 1 km deep for a total of 37kmq of surface.
What will you see inside Valle del Bove
Valle del Bove today is a gigantic “amphitheater” bordered -both to the north and to the south- by rocky walls even 1000 meters high. The structure of the modern volcano Etna borders it to the west while eastwards you will see the esplanade that descends towards the coast.
You will also see the remains of Mount Calanna standing solitary in the middle of the esplanade, the small plateau Salto della Giumenta – which used to connect Valle del Bove to the Calanna valley, now covered by the 1992 eruption’s lavas – and different “oasis” of wild vegetation (Mount Simone, Centenari Hills, Serra Gianicola). Obviously Valle del Bove is uninhabited.
Explore the Valle del Bove
You can explore the valley by walking along paths and routes of the Park of Etna. The most famous one starts from the top of Canyon of Rina (2.500 mt height) and goes down to the deepest part of Valle del Bove, to the craters of 1991 and finally ending at Piano del Vescovo.
You can also enter the valley from Schiena dell’Asino route, or from the beautiful way of Acqua Rocca through the Carmelo&Riccardo path. These are very hard tracks, good for people who are used to walk a lot and on any kind of soil. We ALWAYS suggest to go with expert local guides and listen to their addice. Never try to walk these routes by yourselves.
The importance of this Valley
Valle del Bove is much more than a deserted basin or a paradise for walkers and explorers. The presence of this immense valley allows all the towns and villages of the eastern side of Mount Etna to be safe from lavas and pyroclastic flows. The valley in fact collects the lava flows and any other emission of the volcano before they reach the inhabited places. So Valle del Bove protects the population and at the same time allows everyone to admire the eruptive spectacles in complete safety.
(top photo by Grazia Musumeci)