Etna eruption of 1669

Eruzione dell’Etna del 1669.

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The eruption of Etna in 1669 was the most devastating of which we historically have documentation and testament.
It was such a destructive event that the Etna population of the period therefore defined 1669 as “the year of the great ruin“.

The places of the eruption
This eruption of Etna had such a strong collective impact because it involved many Etna municipalities and caused damage to both the cultivated areas and the urban fabric of the territory. ven though there were no deaths, the large lava flow devastated streets and homes.
The lava buried the municipality of Malpasso (today’s Belpasso) and the ancient Misterbianco, of which only the church bell tower remained visible. A flow submerged the sanctuary of Mompilieri without damaging it (Yo can see more about link to the il vulcanico). It also reached the city of Catania and flowed into the sea.
Even today it is possible to visit and admire the places that characterized that environmental disaster, with excursions on foot or to bike starting from Montirossi ascending towards craters or with dedicated bike intoetna .

Figure 1 – The lava flow of 1669 illustrated in the painting by the painter Giacinto Platania, an eyewitness of the event.

It was found that the historic eruption of Etna in 1669 was so intense that it influenced the development of residential area in the following centuries, also influencing the following evolution and relocation of productive and economic activities, which were diverted (è il termine giusto?) to areas that could be considered safe place .

The phases of the eruption

As often happens, the eruptive activity of the Etna volcano was anticipated by some violent earthquakes which, starting from 25 February 1669, damaged the surrounding municipalities. Testimonies report the collapse of the roofs of numerous houses in the towns of Nicolosi, Pedara, Trecastagni and Viagrande.
hese earthquakes culminated in the opening of a series of fissures on the sides of the volcano from which the incandescent magma began to escape. The numerous lava flows in fact started from seven vents and were interspersed with a prolonged activity of expulsion of gas, ash and lapilli. The violent emissions of fragmented magma (ashes, lapilli and bombs) were in some cases particularly dangerous due to their unpredictability. While the rapid evolution of the lava flows represented an extraordinary and at the same time distressing spectacle for eyewitnesses.
The eruption of Etna continued for 122 days, until July 1669 and ended with the cooling of the lava fronts and the final degassing of the volcano.

More changes to the Etna territory next the eruption

It is fascinating to observe how from a naturalistic point of view this eruption modified the surrounding environment, on the entire southern slope of Etna and even on the coastline south of the city of Catania.
The lava flow filled some differences in height between the hills of the southern slope, forming real “lava plains”, like today’s Piano Tavola. Moreover, the historic lake of Nicito which had formed in Roman times disappeared and for a long period not even the Amenano river which bathed the perimeter of Catania was visible anymore.
The traces of that ancient and fascinating lava route can all be retraced with excursions on foot or to bike starting from Montirossi ascending towards craters or with dedicated bike routes intoEtna .

Figure 2 – Anonymous drawing of the 1669 eruption of Etna preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (from Abate & Branca 2016), Evolution of the flow towards the end of March.

The charm of Etna

The eruption of Etna in 1669 was an event that still today reminds the local population of the power with which the strength of the volcano can be manifested, its immense capacity to interact with the human condition and to influence collective and individual activity .

The presence of Etna is in fact not just a landscape element like many others but a living natural entity of great value for the inhabitants of the area. For us at intoetna who consider the connection with Nature as a unique and engaging experience (link to who we are), the trekking or biking routes that lead us to revisit and relive those places modified by ancient lava flows represent a way to establish a dialogue with Etna, with the evolution of its profile and its appearance, with its bursting energy and its breathtaking beauty.__

To learn more about the topics of this article:

Bibliographical references:

  • Francesco Ferrara, Storia generale dell’Etna – 1793
  • Giuseppe Recupero, Storia naturale e generale dell’Etna – 1815
  • Bonaventura la Rocca – Relatione del nuovo incendio fatto da Mongibello – 1670
  • Carlo Mancino, Narrativa del fuoco uscito da Mongibello il dì undici di Marzo del 1669

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Gino Moschetto


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