Mount Etna - Largest Active Volcano in Europe


Mount Etna is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. The highest active volcano in Europe lies in the eastern part of Sicily, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. Mount Etna has a height of about 3,300 meters (11,000 feet). It has a circular base of over a hundred kilometers in circumference. The volcano lies on the boundary between the Eurasian and African plates in the middle of an extremely active geological zone.

Mount Etna is a typical stratovolcano with a caldera at the top. In the course of history eruptions have sent out lava, molten rock, gases and ash, not only at the top but also on the volcano’s flanks. Etna has been active for ages. The ancient Greeks reported about Etna’s activity and according to some legends it was home of the Greek god of fire and a one-eyed giant.


Although Mount Etna has erupted several times throughout the ages, the outbreak of 1669 was the largest. It destroyed many villages and parts of Catania, a large city which lies at the volcano’s foot. During the historic outbreak lava flowed into the sea near the city’s harbor. More than 20,000 people were killed during this eruption.


Following minor outbreaks in the 1950s and 60s and the volcano has repeatedly erupted every few years since then. In the past there have been attempts to divert lava flows away from Catania and other villages.

Since the middle of the 19th century Mount Etna has been observed very closely. Scientists try to find out more about its volcanic activity in three observatories are situated on its slopes.

Mount Etna has provided the hills and slopes around it with fertile soil from its lava outbreaks. Farming and vineyards dominate the low zones surrounding the volcano. In the higher areas the volcanic mountain is covered with trees, especially chestnut, oak and birch.  The highest parts of the volcano are covered with ash, sand and scattered plants and bushes.

Europe’s most active volcano, however, is not a dead zone. In the summer, tourist agencies offer guided tours and climbing excursions. The snow-covered volcano gives skiers a breath-taking view of the surrounding Mediterranean Sea.



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  • according to = as reported by …
  • activity = action, movement
  • although = while
  • ancient = old
  • ash = soft, grey powder that is left when something is burned
  • attempt = try
  • birch = tree with a smooth bark and very thin branches
  • boundary = line between two objects
  • breath-taking = wonderful, amazing
  • caldera = is formed when land at the top of a volcano collapses
  • century = a hundred years
  • chestnut = tree on which red-brown nuts grow
  • circular base = at the bottom it is a circle
  • circumference = around the base
  • dead zone = with no life or activity
  • destroy = damage completely
  • divert = here: to change the path of something that is moving
  • dominate = here: are full of
  • eruption = outbreak
  • fertile soil = top layer of earth that is able to produce good food and crops
  • flank = the side of a mountain
  • flow = move very quietly
  • giant = very very big person
  • guided tour = people show you around a place
  • harbor = place where ships stay to load and unload goods
  • height = how high something is
  • however = but
  • minor  = small
  • molten rock = rock that gets hot and turns into a liquid
  • oak = large tree with hard wood that is common in moderate climates
  • observatory = building from where you can watch something and do research
  • observe = watch
  • outbreak = eruption
  • plate = one of the large sheets of rock that form the earth’s surface
  • provide = give
  • repeatedly = over and over again
  • scattered = spread over an area
  • slope = side of a mountain
  • stratovolcano = looks like a cone , and is made up of many layers of different material
  • surrounding = around
  • village = very small town
  • vineyard = piece of land where you grow grapes to produce wine