Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Province of Catania, between Messina and Catania. It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. It is the tallest active volcano on the European continent, currently 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high, though this varies with summit eruptions.
It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 1,190 km2 (459 sq mi) with a basal circumference of 140 km. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Only Mount Teide in Tenerife surpasses it in the whole of the European-North-African region. In Greek Mythology, the deadly monster Typhon was trapped under this mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder and king of gods, and the forges of Hephaestus were said to also be located underneath it.
Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Large lava flow from an eruption in 1928 led to the first (and only) destruction of a population centre since the 1669 eruption. The eruption firstly started high on Etna's northeast flank on November 2. Then new eruptive fissures opened at ever lower elevation down the flank of the volcano. The third and most vigorous of these fissures opened late on 4 November at an unusually low elevation, approximately 1,200 m (3,937 ft) above sea-level, in a zone known as Ripe della Naca.
Other major 20th-century eruptions occurred in 1949, 1971, 1981, 1983 and 1991¨C1993. In 1971, lava buried the Etna Observatory (built in the late 19th century), destroyed the first generation of the Etna cable-car, and seriously threatened several small villages on Etna's east flank. In March 1981, the town of Randazzo on the northwestern flank of Etna narrowly escaped destruction by unusually fast-moving lava flows. That eruption was remarkably similar to one in 1928 that destroyed Mascali.
Etna is one of Sicily's main tourist attractions, with thousands of visitors every year. The most common route is through the road leading to Sapienza Refuge, lying at the south of the crater at elevation of 1910 m. It hosts a large parking, several bars, a hotel, and is a starting point for the cable car. From the Refuge, a cableway runs uphill to the elevation of 2500 m; from there, visitors can take a drive with special terrain vehicles, or take a long walk to the designated crater area at 2920 m.