Southern Italy and Sicily are a hotbed of volcanic activity – the most active regions in Europe, in fact. With its soaring vistas, smoking craters and volcanic islands bubbling with hot springs, it’s no surprise curious visitors are keen to explore the ‘volcano trail’. Italy’s volcanoes attract spa-goers and wine connoisseurs as much as thrill seekers, not to mention sightseers to the likes of Pompeii. Here are the ones to explore on your next visit…
Beyond the Bay of Naples and picture-perfect Sorrento is the brooding silhouette of Mount Vesuvius, Italy’s most famous – and most formidable – volcano. The only volcano on Europe’s mainland to have erupted in the past hundred years, Mount Vesuvius is best known for the Pompeii eruption, when the ancient Roman town was destroyed (and perfectly preserved) in AD 79.
There are plenty of ways to see Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii up close. We offer walking tours of Pompeii departing from Sorrento, 4×4 excursions up the volcano or a full day’s trip to see both, where you can go right up to the edge of the crater.
Dominating eastern Sicily, menacing Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe, standing at 3,329 metres – that’s two and a half times the height of Mount Vesuvius. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the volcano is also part of the Parco dell’Etna national park, with volcanic soil that’s brilliant for local agriculture.
The picturesque town of Taormina is the best jump-off for meeting Etna. We can arrange full-day tours that scale the volcano’s heights and stop for the views at the beautiful Alcantara Gorge, while adventurous types can go further by cable car and jeep.
Stromboli is one of the volcanic Aeolian Islands, scattered off the northern coast of Sicily. It’s not only active, but constantly active – and has been for 2,000 years. This ever-smoking, ever-bubbling volcano has earned the nickname ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’ for its smouldering glow, visible from miles away.
A popular day trip destination, Stromboli has a population of around 500 and little in the way of modern amenities, which only adds to its mystery. Boat tours skim close to the smoking craters (particularly impressive at dusk), and walking tours are possible – for confident hikers only.
Another of the Aeolian Islands, Vulcano is an island steeped in myth and legend. It features heavily in Greek mythology, and the Romans named it after the god Vulcan, as they believed the smoking volcano was the chimney of his workshop.
Today, Vulcano is a favourite on Italy’s ‘volcano trail’ for hikers; no guide is required, and it’s a fairly straightforward three-hour hike to its highest peak, Fossa di Vulcano. The peak has magnificent views across the islands, and you can actually climb into the crater. (Don’t worry – it’s been a good couple of hundred years since the last eruption.)
If you fancy volcanic explorations without the high-adrenaline climb of smoking craters, plan a visit to beautiful Ischia. This volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples has harnessed its activity to make it a premium spa destination since Roman times, with an abundance of hot springs, therapeutic mud baths and thermal spas.
The volcanic soil has also resulted in flourishing vineyards, where DOC wines are produced, including dry whites Ischia Bianco and Ischia Biancolella. Wine tasting and vineyards tours are hugely popular on the island; some are located up in the mountains for the added bonus of stunning views.