As I write this, the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) is nearing the end of its first week and the riders already have lots of miles in their legs with more racing to come. While the tour organizers tend to use many of the same roads and sites for the race every year, they do make slight variations and add in roads or areas not frequently visited by the race.
One of those areas added on for this year’s race is Sicily, which is an island in the Mediterranean located off the coast of Italy. It is not its own country, which is an easy assumption to make by those who are not from Italy. What makes Sicily a unique part of the tour this year, however, is Mt. Etna.
Since its first use in the Giro in 1967, the volcano’s roads have been used many times, which is quite surprising when one thinks about its geologic history. Etna erupts frequently and with a lot of fervor. One of the largest recorded eruptions on the mountain was in 2002. Mt. Etna seems to be used in the Giro every other year, the last time being in 2020, a volcanic year for everyone in the world as the pandemic was raging. Yet, the race was still held and a stage winner declared.
Mt. Etna is considered one of the highest active volcanoes in Europe and tops out at 11,014 feet (3,357 meters). But every time the volcano erupts, its height increases. In fact, it is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and it is one of three active volcanoes in Italy (Mount Vesuvius and Mount Teide being the other two).
Not only is Mount Etna famous geologically, but it earned a place in Italian/ Greek mythology. It is supposedly the site of Vulcan’s smithy works, which is said to be at the base of the mountain.
I know if I was riding up Etna, I would be a bit terrified not only by the climb but its mutable state and that it might erupt while I was passing through. Fortunately, there’s no document of that occurring that I found in my research.
To read more about Mt. Etna and its connection to the Giro d’Italia, Italy, and its mythical past, check out this excellent article by Paul Maunder over at Peloton, one of my favorite cycling publications. Well worth the money for a subscription, by the way, for the stories, photography, and its passionate immersion in all things cycling.
Have you ever been to Mount Etna? Better yet, have you ever done this well-known Giro d’Italia climb? Please like, comment, and share and let me know. And until next time, I hope you can go out and experience some elevation on your bike wherever you might live but minus the erupting volcanoes.