I’ve got a ton of posts to crank out on our family vacation to Sicily and Salzburg. I’m hoping to get my butt in gear. Here’s a quick peek at what I expect to cover:
- Getting There. Connecting In Rome And Using Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Points Overseas
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Catania, Sicily
- A Return To Taormina, A Beautiful City On A Hill
- Our Favorite Part of Taormina
- Exploring Mt. Etna
- Walking And Eating In Downtown Catania
- A Day In Siracusa
- Priority Pass Lounge At Catania Airport
- Mess after Mess. airberlin To Salzburg
- Hotel Review: Sheraton Grand Salzburg
- Sound of Music Tour
- Walking Around Salzburg
- L’Osteria Restaurant
- Salt Mines at Berchtesgaden
- Cable Car at Untersbergbahn
- Tasty Donuts, Salzburg
- Train To Vienna
- Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Vienna, OMG
- Park Hyatt Vienna Review, Part 2
- Riding The U-Bahn Subway In Vienna
- Schmetterlinghaus: The Imperial Butterfly House
- Haus des Meeres: Aqua Terra Zoo
- Austrian Airlines Lounge, Vienna Airport
- Austrian Airlines VIE-IAD, Business Class Review
- Wrapping Up
Mt. Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and the tallest active volcano in Europe. The volcano rises up on the horizon outside of Catania.
Mt. Etna erupted only a few months ago. It’s decidedly active. Watching the video of an active volcano less than a year removed from our visit, our kids were excited to recall their trip.
There are two main bases to explore the volcano. On the Southern/Eastern side is the Sapienza Refuge. Our plan was open-ended. We knew we wanted to explore, but we had no idea how long the kids would be interested. It’s hard to gauge how active I was as a child. However, my wife and I both feel like our kids don’t have the stamina we did (or, at least when they’re not interested in something).
Sapienza Refuge doubles as a ski resort in the winter time. Located less than an hour from downtown Catania, we arrived late morning. There are a few shops and restaurants at Sapienza Refuge. A cable car ticket will cost you about 30USD for a return trip. You can buy a one-way trip as well, but the walk down is a long one.
Sapienza Refuge Cable Car
Once you ascend via the cable car, there are other tour options to take you further up the mountain. The entire family was excited to go. However, the guides suggested that the smell of sulfur is quite strong, making it tougher to breathe. They didn’t want to let our young son Charlie attempt the climb. Charlie was only 5 at the time and likely would have struggled, though I think my wife and I could have taken turns piggybacking him down. Undeterred, we set out to hike around at the top of the cable car stop.
There’s a substantial temperature difference as you climb the mountain. It was slightly warm at the base, though cooler than when we let our hotel. It was much cooler as we ascended. There’s an opportunity to rent jackets, boots and other gear to keep warm.
While there’s a further option to purchase a ticket on a bus to take you further up the mountain (though not all the way to the summit), we decided we were comfortable hiking around the area near the top of the cable car.
Exploring The Mountain
We still weren’t sure how long the kids would be interested, and it was a steep climb. They continued to surprise us as they climbed peak after peak. The most compelling thing I hope the pictures show is the incredible size of the mountain. We explored nearly all day and barely scratched the surface.
There’s so much of the mountain to explore. Charlie was excited to find ladybugs all over the place. Both kids enjoyed sifting through the volcanic residue on the mountain. The loose gravel made walking a bit of a chore. It’s still possible to enjoy hiking the mountain if you’re not in shape. Folks like my wife will have a much easier time handling the conditions.
There was a fair amount of cloud cover during our visit, but tit didn’t deter the view terribly. The winds create a swirling effect that adds to the experience. The wind moves at a fairly good clip, as evidenced by this video.
We went slow and steady and had a ton of fun exploring. The kids even found some live steam fissures. Those were really the highlight of the hike.
Exploring The Base
We went back down via cable car and had some lunch at the base of Sapienza Refuge. There were a few collapsed craters to explore, but we really thought the kids would be done by then. Heck, we were tired. But, they geared back up.
Exploring the craters made us feel very insignificant when compared with their size. I don’t think the pictures really do it justice. It took us 15 minutes to hike to the top of one, the views outstanding.
There’s a store right near the entrance of Sapienza Refuge that bears exploring. You’ll see a sign about an eruption back in 2001. The lava flow actually came to rest alongside the building, blocking the windows on the side of the building.
The Final Two Pennies
We ended a long day on Mt. Etna. The kids were tired, but excited for the experience. For weeks after, Charlie talked about wanting to go back. Months later, he still recalls it with great detail.
These are my favorite sorts of experiences. We weren’t expecting Mt. Etna to captivate us as it did. Our kids still want to see actual lava flowing, and we hope to find a safe way to do that one day. For now, they have the memory of those steam covered rocks amidst the cold, fast-moving breeze. And, a mountain rumbling quietly under the surface.
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