Camping on a Volcano – Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

We are parked up overlooking the view at Rifugio Sapienza (Wisdom Refuge), the end of the road up Mount Etna at 1910m. The refuge is purportedly a ski area, though it is decidedly lacking in snow coverage for ski-ing at the moment. It was only a 30 minute drive from our camping site last night to the top and we had lovely clear views of the smoking summit of Etna on our way up and were hopeful of some amazing views at the top. Ironically it was a wider, smoother road than we have experienced in much of the rest of Sicily to the top. Inexplicably though, more litter than we have seen elsewhere all up the sides of the road.

Clear views of Etna’s smoking snow capped 3357m peak

We picked our spot on the big car park, mostly empty, at the rail over looking the amazing view of the low sun reflecting on the distant sea below. It was 7 degrees at the motorhome when we parked up, having dropped from 15 degrees C when we left the campsite only 30 minutes before. Despite a walk at the campsite, the dogs were wildly excited to head out an explore, so after a quick expresso at one of the many tourist outlets, we set out for a crater walk.

Clear view down to the coast when we arrived, early morning sun glinting off the Ionian Sea

There are two craters near to the car park – Crateri Silvestri (dating from 1986) and the Crateri Silvestri Superiori (dating from the 2001 eruption). It does seem a little odd to have such an infrastructure on the most active volcano in Europe and the oldest recorded active volcano in the world. There is indeed a sign about 100 yards from where we are parked saying that the 2001 eruption reached that point, at the base of the Upper Silvestri crater.

Upper Silvestri Crater

So we took the girls off for a tour of the craters, the lower is a gentle walk but has some great views to the hills and towns below. Typically, the clouds started to form as soon as we were out walking, however, it was pretty cool watching them swirl around us, as we were at the height of the clouds. The lower Silvestri crater from 1986 is relatively small. However, the upper crater from 2001 is three times the size, a bit of a steeper walk but giving great views down over the lower crater. Lola had great fun tearing around, Lizzy kept firmly on the lead due to her poor eyesight.

Having given the girls a good run around we thought we would head up to the top of the cable car, as there were enough breaks in the cloud to make it worthwhile. The cable car takes you up to 2503m, or you can walk, we did not want to leave the girls alone that long. There was another walk from the top of the cable car to another 2001 crater at 2900m, which you could either walk up or take a 4×4 bus (Unimog). However, currently the maximum height is limited to 2750m due to current levels of volcanic activity.

Looking down on the clouds and the view from 2500m

The cable car is a fairly slow climb upwards, it did stop twice on the way, falling silent and for just long enough for you to wander if it had broken down as you swung slightly in the wind!

We could see all the snow ploughs and tour buses parked up at the top of the cable car, a few people took the bus. There did not appear to be anything specific at that height to see, so we contended ourselves with a walk around at 2503m. It was a great view of the summit from there, which is continually smoking. The views below we could glimpse between the clouds, it was amazing to be able to look over the top of the clouds. Though the wind was pretty cool at the top.

We had a coffee at the top before heading down the cable car for some lunch. We had a self-service restaurant lunch, which was definitely a mistake, people pushing, immensely noisy and mediocre food. We were happy to retire to the sanctuary of our motorhome. The cloud has cleared to the west again now as I write and Catania has appeared out of the mist. The cloud seems to be a land / air temperature phenomena as there was hardly any cloud yesterday except that round Etna, but from the webcams it appeared to clear in the evening, just as it did first thing this morning. So we are hoping for some lovely sunset and sunrise photos from our perch on the mountain side tonight.

View of the summit from 2500m

Several other motorhomers have woken up surrounded by snow on the park up here before. However, I think we will get clear skies which would be awesome looking forward to looking out at the lights below and the stars above tonight, though we are expecting it to get to about – 3 degrees C. The coldest temperature we have seen for a long time.

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