The secrets
below Mt. Etna

The volcano eruption, that begun 1614 and lasted ten years, gave life to curious rock formations which attract explorers outside the widely known paths

Etna is always amazing, but maybe not everyone knows that in 1614 its eruption lasted ten years. In 1624, when the volcanic activity subsided, numerous caves were created. An example? The Grotta del Gelo, which contains the southernmost perpetual glacier in Europe.

GROTTA DEL GELO. It’s located in Randazzo and a long trek across the “Sciara del follone”, an arid territory formed by the accumulation of the ten-year lava flow, is required to reach it. “In ancient times the area was crossed by mule drivers, who stopped near the cave with their mule caravans”, told Biagio Ragonese, one of the experts of the guide group Guide Etna Nord. “It wasn’t a refuge, given the cold weather, but a passing rest area that has become quite known”.

Grotta del Gelo | Biagio Ragonese

FRESH AIR. Even though the external climate influences the microclimate of the cave’s entrance, making it somewhat chilly, in the furthest parts the “frost” is maintained unaltered, so that stalactites and stalagmites never melt. Lately, temperatures have been on the rise (around -6° C) due to rifts caused by an eruption in 1981 from which the outer air penetrates inside but the altitude (2.000 meters) protects the perpetual glaciers of the cave.

FASCINATING CAVES. The fame of the Grotta del Gelo is the result of its having been a place of passage for centuries, but there are many other less known caves nearby. Biagio Ragonese revealed their names with that bit of jealousy of custodian of an unknown fascinating place. There are Grotta dei Lamponi characterized by a thick vegetation, Grotta di Aci discovered by a group from Acireale and Grotta dei Pastori frequented by shepherds during transhumance and exploited as a water reserve. All three are set long the “Sciara del follone”. If you are curious to go beyond the words, you just have to explore these places of the underground Etna with a local guide. When we will be able to do it, of course.

Translated by Daniela Marsala

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