Only 45 minutes away by car to the 'Sapienza Refuge' from the B&B but never out of sight, Etna is Europe's most highest active volcano (currently 3329 mt.) and one of the largest in the world. It is gradually becoming more explosive and erupts frequently. (Sometimes it is possible to see the glowing stream of molten lava flowing down the southeastern slopes at night, from our balconies.)
NB: A public bus departs from Catania (Central Station) at 08:15 am Mon-Sat, arriving at the refuge at 10:00hrs. and departing at 16:30hrs.
From the refuge you can take a cable-car and 4WD trucks, up through the past lava flows, to the crater of the 2001/2 eruption (which destroyed the cable-car and the 'Philosopher's Tower') and onto a plateau overlooking the 3 main active craters or you can ascend by foot (a moderate 3 hour climb up). If you want to see more, you can hire a Specialist Alpine Guide for a more physical & extensive 6 hour exploration of the summit and principal craters (10.00-16:00hrs.) This can only be done with a qualified guide due to the obvious dangers of spitting molten rocks and gas explosions and only in small groups and during peak season. NB: A public bus departs from Catania (Central Station) at 08:15 am Mon-Sat, arriving at the refuge at 10:00hrs. (in time for the exscursions) and departing again at 16:30hrs. NB: All organised tours/excursions can be arranged and booked by 5 Balconi B&B, at no extra cost.
Etna is spectacular in summer, offering great trekking up through the luxurious green chestnut and pinewoods, as it also is in winter when it is possible to ski and explore around 17th century craters.
In the foothills you can also find interesting medieval villages, rich in local produce such as honey, pistachios, mushrooms and of course 'vino'. So, there's plenty to sample on your journey. These villages are also accessible from theCircumetnea Railway, which departs from Catania (Borgo Station) and slowly encircles the volcano through citrus plantations, vineyards and nut tree orchards offering endless views of the peak.