Volcanoes of Italy


Some of you may remember that I spent my 2020 summer holidays in Sicily on a 16 days tours of the island which allowed me to cover pretty much all the major cities and attractions of this incredibily beautiful mediterranean gem. On the second day of my tour, together with my family, I joined a guided excursion to the main crater of the Etna Volcano, which is the tallest and largest of Europe. (Click here for the full report).

On that excursion I took the picture here below which testifies that the Etna is pretty much always active:

Etna main crater. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

I took that picture from the rim of a collapsed crater which was created during the eruption of 2001 at an altitude of 2920 meters. The reason why I am writing again about the Etna is that on february 15th and 16th, it performed a major spectacular eruption, therefore the ordinary volcanic daily activity which I assisted was nothing in comparison. What impressed me of this new eruption is that I actually walked right on that rim, which erupted with explosions and lava flows.

Etna eruption – Photo courtesy of Focus

In my life I have assisted to several eruptions of the Etna, including one which I saw live, as a child, when I was in Sicily with my grandparents. Every time the Etna erupts, people living at it’s feet are somehow threatened due to the proximity of several villages (especially the town of Zafferana Etnea which is a major honey making station) and the city of Catania, whose airport suffers closures every time, to avoid the ashes from threatening safe take-offs and landings. The worst eruption I experienced dates back to 1991 when the lava almost touched the village of Zafferana, whose inhabitants were evacuated as a precaution, but the eruption ended before it happened.

Other eruptions are simply spectacular and visible from a pretty far distance given the height of the Etna and the altitude that the pyroclastic clouds can reach. This last eruption (february 2021) falls into this category: no threats for anyone living around the Volcano, but a show that mother nature only can offer.

Etna eurption 2021-Photo by Graziella-Raciti

When I heard about the new eruption I was curious to see the footage on tv at first, then I thought about how many active volcanoes are there in Italy and how many you can climb and see from a close distance. I found out that Italy is home to at least 10 active Volcanoes, pretty much all located in the South, some of which are dormant since long (and nobody can foresee when the next eruption will happen), while some others, like the Etna, are constantly active thus they threaten mostly for the lava flows than for the magnitude of the explosions.

Here is a list of the major Volcanoes of Italy, all of which are monitored by the Italian Institute of Volcanology, to keep their activity checked and provide information, when possible, before major events, which also are open to excursions, accompanied by expert volcanologists.

The Etna is located in Sicily. It’s massive body overshades the city of Catania, althoguh it is not far also from Messina, on the est coast of Sicily.

In the middle of the Tirrenian Sea, halfway between the shores of Sicily, and Calabria a beutiful archipelago is found, called “Isole Eolie” (the islands of the wind). The name of this archipelago comes from the Greek mythology according to which the Islands were the home of Eolo, the God in charge of controlling the wind. The Archipelago is made of 7 islands (Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli and Vulcano) 2 of which are active Volcanoes: Stromboli and Volcano. The Stromboli is commonly referred to, by the locals, as “Iddu” (It) and it’s a volcano of the same nature of the Etna, thus lava flows are the threat rather than the explosions.

Stromboli – Photo from the web

The second Volcano of the Eolian Archipelago also gives the name to the Island, which is simply called “Vulcano”. The island is famous for it’s therapeutic muds which are very hot and can reduce bone related problems when spread on the aching area, as well as for it’s black beaches: the sand here is very dark. This is one of those volcanoes whose eruptions are explosive and may even destroy the very crater which genereted them.

Vulcano. Isole Eolie. Photo from the web

Everybody knows the story of Pompeii and how the explosion of the Vesuvius detroyed the city in 79 a.c. Nowadays the area around the volcano is one of the most populated of the Country with more than 2 million people living around it. The Vesuvius is a serius threat, considered one of the most dangerous volcano on the Earth. Nobody can predict when the next explosion will happen. The Vesuvius itself is actually what remains of a former bigger Volcano called Somma, whose crater collapsed after a major explosion, generating a wide caldera surmounted by the Vesuvius. In the past 2000 years, after the infamous 79 a.c. eruption, the Vesuvius generated minor explosions every 7 years until the last one which happened in 1944, after which the cap inside the crater sealed again, waiting for the next major eruption, which will be pretty violent again.

Vesuvius – Photo from the web

Although the Vesuvius is one of the most famous Volcanoes in the world, it is not the only threat to the survival of the whole metropolitan area of Napels. Many do not know that the area is also home to what is called a “Super Volcano” called “Campi Flegrei”. It is actually an immense caldera made up of several craters, whose last eruption (not a major one) happend in the mid 1500s. Nowadays the presence of such volcano helped creating a flourishing SPA tourism due to the therapeutic properties of the local hot springs. However, in this case also, the beauty of the place is also it’s major threat. On the satellite picture here below you can see the whole area of Campi Flegrei and you can detect the several craters which are hardly visible from the ground.

Napoli Campi Flegrei – Photo from the web

This are the major volcanoes but the list continues with others that are called “dormant” which means they have erupted in the last 10.000 years

  • Lipari: Eolian Islands. The Italian Institute of Vulcanology recorded some seismic activity and the thermal springs in the nort west area of the Island.
  • Panarea: Eolian Island. The major activity happens under the water of the mediterranean sea as witnessed by several fumaroles.
  • Pantelleria: This island is located in the the area of the mediterranean sea which separates Sicily from Tunisia. The main activity here is made of fumaroles and hot water springs.
  • Ischia: Gulf od Naples, less popular than Capri, this island is populated by several dormant volcanoes as witnessed by the large number of hot water springs

For excursions on the Etna click here

For excursions on the Stromboli click here

For excurions on the island of Vulcano click here

For excursions on the Vesuvius click here

If you want to see the spectacular eruption of the Etna of February 2021, watch this video on youtube

By the time of this article is posted, minor activities are still ongoing on the south east crater of the Etna

7 thoughts on “Volcanoes of Italy

    • You are right, Stromboli is a very fascinating. There is just one village on the island, all the rest is a big Volcano. When activity is too intense hiking is still possible but not till the rim of the crater

      Liked by 2 people

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