IT CAN BE DEADLY
Inspiring ancient Greek legends, Etna has had scores of known eruptions in its history. An eruption in 396 B.C. has been credited with keeping the army of Carthage at bay. In 1669, in what has been considered the volcano's worst known eruption, lava buried a swath of Catania, about 23 kilometers (15 miles) away and devastated dozens of villages. An eruption in 1928 cut off a rail route circling the mountain's base.
More recently, in 1983, dynamite was used to divert lava threatening inhabited areas. In 1992, the army built an earthen wall to contain the lava, flowing from Etna for months, from hitting Zafferana Etnea, a village of a few thousand people. At one point, the smoking lava stopped two kilometers (just over a mile) from the edge of town.
Over the last century, a hiccup in geological time, low-energy explosive eruptions and lava flows, both fed from the summit and side vents, have characterized Etna.