|Monday March 22
We climbed Mt. Etna today! We drove up from Taormina through an amazing volcanic landscape. The last eruption, in 2000, left much of the countryside covered with black ash and rocks. We arrived at the base station at Refugio Sapienza around 11 a.m. There was a funicular (cable car) until 2000 which took you close to the summit. It was destroyed in 2000, so now they have jeep-type minibuses. We took about an hour to drive switchback to the top, past mountains of ash and lava, snow and ice walls 10 feet high. Some people were hiking on the road; I was glad we had decided not to. It looked like an extremely boring hike: ash, snow, ice, ash, snow, ice..... When we got to the top, it was below freezing with a cold wind. We set off on a trail through the snow. We crossed a ridge and suddenly a warm breeze was blowing. It was steam from the crater - we were in the crater that had formed in the last eruption. It was incredible! We hiked up as high as we could, then came back down on a different route. There was one place where hot rocks in flourescent colors could be picked up to warm our frozen hands.
There is still a lot of work being done at Mt. Etna. Several tacky souvenir shops, and a nice fast food place where we had a good lunch and I bought one of their plates for a much more interesting souvenir.
Re. photos: I have not yet found a place that can read my memory card, so you will have to wait for pictures.