On the last day of our trip we visited Mt. Etna! In classical mythology, it was here that Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods, assisted by the mighty Cyclops kept his fiery forge. Here too was said to be the prison of the terrible Typhon, the great fire-breathing serpent Zeus defeated in the Typhonomachy. Both of these legends serve an etiological purpose, seeking to explain the volcanic activity of Mt. Etna, and now it was our turn to see the mountain I had only read about in myth.
Even at a distance the white, snow-capped volcano dominated the horizon, towering above the nearby city of Catania. As we advanced along the winding roads up the mountainside, dark volcanic rock and snow gradually dominated the landscape, a stark departure form the lush greenery of the rest of the island. We then left the bus and hopped on a gondola to continue our ascent. At last we arrived near the top, where we enjoyed the expansive view that lay before us, waged some hard fought snowball fights, as well as collected small pieces of the mountain to bring back home with us. It was a perfect opportunity to reflect on all the amazing things that we had seen as well as the friendships that had been strengthened throughout the course of the trip.