Italy is home to three active volcanoes, all located in the south of the country. Mount Vesuvius, in Naples, is the only active volcano on mainland Europe. It is famous for the destruction of the Roman towns of Pompei and Herculaneum in 79 BC, an event described in great detail by Pliny the Younger.
The last eruption was in 1944. Vesuvius is considered to be the most dangerous volcano in the world as it could erupt at any time, threatening the lives of the three million people who live nearby.
Stromboli is one of the Aeolian Islands
, situated off the north coast of Sicily, in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is 926 metres high and has been erupting almost constantly for the last 2,000 years.
The spectacular explosions are visible many miles out to sea, leading to the Island being nicknamed 'The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean'.
Mount Etna is located on the eastern side of Sicily, between Messina and Catania. It is in an almost constant state of activity, and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
At over 3,000 metres high, it is the tallest, active volcano on the European continent. It covers an area of 1,190 square kilometres, making it the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy.
What are volcanoes?
The Earth is basically composed of four layers:
The 'Outer Core'
The 'Inner Core'
We live on the 'Outer Crust' which over the land is between 32km to 70km thick. Beneath the 'Outer Crust' is the 'Mantle' which is the deepest layer. The 'Mantle' is extremely hot, but most of the time it stays solid as the pressure inside the Earth is so great that it cannot melt. However, when Tectonic Plates collide, as they do frequently south of Italy, in the area of the Eurasian and African Plates, one Plate is pushed under another and 'Magma' is formed, which can lead to a Volcanic Eruption.
Volcanoes are divided into three different categories according their behaviour. Firstly, volcanoes which have erupted over the last few years are defined as 'Active'.