3/18/19: On our final day in Sicily, we ascended Mt. Etna by bus. The landscape was unlike anything I had seen before, as the hillsides were buried in hardened lava. The volcanic debris makes the area very fertile for plants, allowing them to emerge from the blackened ground. However, the higher up we went, the colder/windier the climate became, so plant life receded. At the lookout point, we climbed up onto the ridge of a small crater (photo taken from there). You can see some patches of snow in the background. It was extremely windy—at times I was worried I would be blown away.
After our brief visit to the cold and windy Etna, we went back down to the city of Catania, which was much more pleasant. One of two major cities on Sicily (the other being Palermo), it was bustling with people. Like Ragusa and Noto, the churches were highly Baroque. Of note, the piazza at the Duomo features a small obelisk with an elephant statue. This architectural decoration definitely recalls a very similar structure outside the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.