In 1800, some attempts were made to create a stable structure at a high altitude, from which Etna’s volcanological phenomena could be observed. It was inspired by the eruption of 1923, which convinced the authorities of the quality of the initiative proposed by Gaetano Ponte, Professor of Volcanology at the University of Catania. It can be defined as the first volcanological institute in Europe, funded by the State and directed by Professor Ponte at the historical seat of the Faculty of Geology in Catania.
In the mid-high mountain area of Etna, the Etna Observatory was built at an altitude of 2941 metres and the Casa Cantoniera refuge at 1881 metres was converted into a volcanological station. In addition to monitoring the volcano’s activity, the problem of the structures’ vulnerability to the dangerous phenomena of Etnean volcanic activity was also addressed for the first time.
Unfortunately, due to limited funding, Prof. Ponte’s scientific project was never completed. However, the Italian Volcanological Institute represented a modern organisation for monitoring the active volcanic systems in Sicily (Etna, Stromboli and Vulcano).
The Etna Observatory was destroyed during the 1971 eruption, when eruptive mouths opened a few hundred metres away. It was then rebuilt, and recently restored as a summit refuge point by the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.