The Active Volcanos of Southern Italy

While all of Italy is a volcanic hotspot, some of the most active volcanoes in the country are in Southern Italy. While you won’t have to worry about them erupting while you’re visiting, it’s always fun to see where nature’s fury has been unleashed!

If you’re visiting southern Italy, it’s likely that you’ll get to see at least one of the country’s active volcanoes. Mt. Etna in Sicily, Stromboli in the Aeolian Archipelago and Vesuvius on the Bay of Naples are all within easy driving distance of each other and a short train ride away from Rome—and all three are impressive sights to behold.

Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano; Stromboli is its most active volcano; and Vesuvius looms over Naples as one of Italy’s most famous landmarks.


Naples, Campania, Italy. View of Mount Vesuvius in the background


Mt. Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is a volcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Italy. It is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has erupted many times since its first eruption in A.D. 79.

The mountain is located just 10 miles from Naples and has been a popular tourist destination since the early 18th century. Today, the mountain attracts more than 2 million visitors per year, making it one of the most visited tourist attractions in Europe.

If you plan on visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as Mount Vesuvius itself—and why wouldn’t you?—you’ll need some extra time: these places are so close together that it would be silly not to see them all. Herculaneum is particularly interesting because only about 10% of its ruins have been excavated so far; its ruins are expected to reveal more information about daily life during ancient times than even those at Pompeii will provide!

Only active volcano in mainland Europe.

While Italy is known for its rich cultural history, it is also home to an impressive array of volcanoes. In fact, Italy has the highest number of active volcanoes in Europe, with Mount Vesuvius being the only one located on mainland territory.

Mount Vesuvius has a long history of explosive eruptions that began in 79 CE. It has been dormant since 1944 but could erupt again at any moment. Though there have been no major eruptions in recent years, residents near Vesuvius still live under a constant threat from this vicious peak and are accustomed to evacuating when necessary—and they’re quick about it! And while most people know that Pompeii was destroyed by a volcanic eruption (and they probably know where Pompeii was), many don’t realize that Mount Vesuvius wasn’t always so deadly or destructive; before 79 CE it had only erupted once before—in 472 BCE!

Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D

The Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD is one of the most famous and devastating volcanic eruptions in history. It destroyed the city of Pompeii and neighboring cities, killed thousands of people, and preserved the ancient city in ash for centuries.

The eruption began with a series of earthquakes that shifted the ground underneath Pompeii. This caused buildings to collapse and made cracks in the ground that quickly filled with water. Soon after, gas explosions sent rocks into the air and ash began falling from the sky.

As time passed, the volcano became extremely active. There were multiple smaller eruptions before a major eruption occurred in August 79 AD. This final explosion buried Pompeii under 15 feet (4.5 meters) of ash and rock and killed thousands of people who had not evacuated their homes.

The eruption in 79 A.D. was one of the most dangerous volcanic eruptions ever to occur in Europe. It produced more ash than any other known historic eruption, and it buried Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae under meters of material. It was also one of the most deadly volcanic eruptions in European history – with a death toll estimated at 16,000 people. The scale of this eruption has been estimated at 2-3 cubic kilometers – this would make it far bigger than Mount St Helens (0.8 cubic kilometers) or even Laki fissure eruption which erupted over 14 cubic kilometers.


When the volcano Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, it destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. The eruption buried the city under more than 15 feet of ash, preserving it for centuries.

The ruins of Pompeii were first discovered in the 18th century by workmen digging a well. Since then, archaeologists have been working to unearth and preserve what they can from the ancient city. In addition to finding artifacts—such as tools, jewelry, and coins—they have also uncovered many well-preserved homes, businesses and public buildings. The site is open to visitors who can take a guided tour through the ruins or explore on their own.

Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger was a Roman lawyer and author who wrote two letters describing his uncle’s death during the eruption. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, had been an admiral in the Roman navy and commander of one of its fleets. His nephew later served as a consul (or senator) at Rome around 50 CE.

The letters written by Pliny provide valuable insight into what happened on that fateful day—and how he felt about his uncle’s death. The first letter tells how he heard about Vesuvius erupting from people fleeing from nearby Herculaneum, where they lived after being forced out by lava flows from previous eruptions. He wrote that while trying to find his uncle in Pompeii (another nearby city), it was clear that those near Vesuvius were doomed.



Mt. Etna

The next active volcano on our list is Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in Europe, as well as its highest peak. It’s located on the eastern coast of Sicily, making it an ideal location for visiting tourists and scientists alike. This volcano has been around for thousands of years and has an interesting history. It’s been studied by geologists who have mapped out its formation and eruptions over time. Mount Etna is also known for having a unique crater called “Ionian Sea.”

Mt. Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania. It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus Mountains, currently standing 3,329 metres (10,922 ft) high. A subsidiary summit, Mount Etnalies at 3,237 metres (10,687 ft).

Etna in Greek mythology

Etna is a mythological mountain in Greek mythology. It is also an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. Etna was first described by Hesiod as a “shining mountain” and in Greek Mythology, Zeus threw Typhon into this volcano after he defeated him. In Roman mythology, Mt. Etna was originally called Mt. Eryx and was considered sacred to Hercules who had visited it several times before his death (in between fighting monsters).

During its long history, Etna has been the subject of many myths and legends — including those that tell us how it came to be formed. One legend says that Zeus made Mount Aetna from snowflakes which fell onto Earth from heaven; another says that Hephaestus created it with fire from his forge; finally, some say it grew out of Gaia’s body like all mountains do!


The earliest recorded eruptions occurred in 500 BCE and then again in 474 CE when it erupted for several days. The Roman historian Diodorus Siculus described it: “There are three craters that emit fire at intervals… In shape they resemble baths or large basins in form.”

The 1669 eruption, Etna’s most destructive since 122 BCE, started on 11 March 1669 and produced lava flows that destroyed at least 10 villages on its southern flank before reaching Catania’s city walls 15 weeks later.

Etna has erupted about 200 times since 1500 B.C., and it has been very active in recent decades. The most recent major eruption occurred on 11 February 2022.

Volcanic island Stromboli in Lipari viewed from the ocean. Sicily, Italy


Stromboli, a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, north of Sicily and part of the Lipari Islands, has been in almost continuous eruption for more than 2,000 years. Stromboli has been called “the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.” Its first recorded eruption was in 196 BC. The volcano is one of several active volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. The arc is approximately 500 km (311 mi) long and 20 to 30 km (12 to 19 mi) wide. The closest active volcanoes are Mount Vesuvius and Vulcano. There are also volcanic fields on the nearby island of Pantelleria and at Marsili offshore to the southwest.

Its name comes from the Ancient Greek word Strongýlē (meaning “round, conical”), which describes its appearance when seen from a distance.

In the early 1900s, several thousand people inhabited the island. However, emigration caused the population to drop to 500 by the mid-1950s. As of 2016, the population was about 500.


See for yourself

Knowing about active volcanos in Southern Italy is important. These volcanoes are a beautiful part of our earth and offer an opportunity for people to explore their unique ecosystems and geology. Many people will never get the chance to see these stunning sights up close, so we hope that this article has inspired you to visit one or more of the active destinations!