On June 21st 2013, UNESCO declared Italy's Mount Etna World Heritage Site, defining it "one of the world's most emblematic and active volcanoes". Its history is documented for at least 2.700 years, making it "one of the world's longest most documented records of historical volcanism"; moreover - added the United Nations culture body - "The diverse and accessible assemblage of volcanic features such as summit craters, cinder cones, lava flows, lava caves and the Valle del Bove depression have made Mount Etna a prime destination for research and education", able to influence "volcanology, geophysics and other earth science disciplines". "The fame, the scientific importance and the cultural and educational values of the site whose meanings are of global relevance", UNESCO said.
The area classified as a World Heritage Site is part of the Etna Park: an unique environment not only for the lava flows that characterize and change the landscape, but above all for a variegate universe of plants with their thousand shades of colors: from the intense green of the vineyards below to the various shades of yellow of orchards, oak and chestnut woods and the dark colors of the thick woods of beech and birch that challenge the highest part of the "Mountain" (as Etna is commonly called by the Sicilians), on whose summit there is often a plume of smoke or ashes, symbol of its unremitting eruptive activity.
Etna Mount is both the highest volcano on the European continent and one of the most active in the world, making it a topic of great interest in the classical mythology, that tried to explain earthquakes and landslides with the creations of giants and gods.
It was said, in fact, that Aeolus imprisoned the winds into the caves of Mount Etna and Hephaestus had his own workshop here and manufactured the lightning for Zeus and the armor for Achilles with the help of Cyclopes. For others, it represents the pillar of the sky beneath which the giant Typhon lay and the place where the giant Enceladus was imprisoned because he dared to challenge Zeus.
Known since the Romans under the name of "Aetna", the place name probably derives from the ancient Greek "aitna" (to burn) or from the Phoenician word "attane" (furnace). The Arabs called it "Gabal-Atma", later changed into "Mons Gibel" (from the union of the Latin word "mons" and the Arab one "jebel", both meaning "mountain"), from which derives "Mongibello", still used by the Sicilians to indicate the volcano.