Mount Etna Facts

Here are some facts about Mount Etna, the famous volcano:

  • Mount Etna is located on the east coast of the Italian island of Sicily, in the Mediterranean.
  • It is almost 11,000 feet high, making it the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps.

  • It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Almost half of Etna’s major eruptions have happened during the last 100 years.
  • The volcano covers a huge area, of over 460 square miles. About one quarter of the population of the island of Sicily lives on its slopes.
  • Mount Etna has snow on it for most of the year. The sides of the volcano are also home to a large number of animal species, and there are vineyards and olive groves near the foot of the mountain.
  • The most violent eruption was in March, 1669. The mountain erupted lava for several days, which destroyed several nearby villages and the city walls of Catania.

Eruption of Mount Etna

  • Vulcan was the Roman God of metalworking and fire and the Romans believed his workshop was at the base of the mountain. The word ‘volcano’ comes from his name.
  • Some of the lava on the side of Mount Etna is 300,000 years old. Because the geological and atmospheric conditions are similar to those on Mars, scientists have tested space robots here.
  • It is estimated that more than 70 people have died as a result of Mount Etna’s eruptions. However, the mineral rich lava is seen as a good thing by nearby farmers, as it makes the soil more fertile.
  • The volcano has a longer history of written accounts of its eruptions than any other volcano. One of the earliest accounts was by the poet Virgil in his famous book, The Aenid.
  • Mount Etna is popular with tourists, who climb or ski on the mountain. Local people often call Etna ‘Mongibello’ meaning ‘beautiful mountain’ in Italian.

What next? Find out some facts about Mount Vesuvius, a famous volcano in Italy, visit the Primary Facts Volcanoes resources page, or learn about some of the world’s most famous mountains.

Mount Vesuvius: Facts About the Famous Volcano

Here are some facts about Mount Vesuvius:

  • Mount Vesuvius is one of the most well known volcanoes in the world. It is located in Italy, on the Gulf of Naples, about 9 miles from the city of Naples.

  • Mount Vesuvius is about 4,190 feet high and measures about 30 miles around its base. Geologists estimate it to be about 17,000 years old.
  • Vesuvius is the only volcano on the European mainland that has erupted during the last century and is still active. It has erupted over 50 times during the last 2,000 years.

Mount Vesuvius

  • The last eruption occurred in 1944, during the height of the Second World War, destroying US bomber planes stationed a few kilometres away. A long period of calm usually means an eruption may happen soon.
  • Over 3 million people live in the immediate area of Mt Vesuvius. More people live dangerously close to it than to any other volcano anywhere in the world.
  • The most famous eruption happened in 79 AD. Mount Vesuvius erupted continuously for almost a day, killing thousands of people and completely burying the nearby city of Pompeii. The town of Herculaneum was also buried.
  • Archaeologists have found many well preserved items in and around Pompeii over the years. They include heating stoves, eye patches, cooking utensils and goblets, as well as the remains of dogs and cats.
  • When the volcano erupted, most people fled to where they felt safe, although they were actually running towards the volcano. The only surviving account of the eruptions are two letters written by Pliny the Younger, a local writer.

Mt Vesuvius

  • The volcano was made a National Park in 1995. Visitors can climb the mountain and walk to within 200 yards of the summit, where sulfuric smoke can be seen coming out of the crater.
  • Mount Vesuvius is actually a volcano within a volcano and is known as a stratovolcano because of its conical shape. The two
    distinct cones are separated by a 3 mile long valley.

What next? Discover more volcano facts or take a look at our resources page on the topic of mountains.