The Red Mountains

The earthquake that changed the geography of eastern Sicily in 1693

On 11 January 1693, the whole of Sicily was devastated by a very strong earthquake. A 7.4 magnitude tremor hit the eastern coast of Sicily, between Catania and Syracuse.
The devastating earthquake went down in history as the “Val di Noto earthquake”, destroying more than 45 towns and killing at least 60,000 people. The tremors were so powerful that they created a devastating tidal wave in the Ionian Sea, which reached Greece. It culminated in an earthquake swarm that lasted a few days. Two days earlier, on the evening of 9 January 1693, another strong earthquake hit the area, bringing down some buildings and causing deaths, albeit less violent than the one on the 11th. The earthquake on 11 January was followed by more than 1,500 aftershocks in the next two years. In as many as 70 inhabited centres, the intensity of the earthquake was greater than or equal to the ninth degree of the modified Mercalli intensity scale. There were also collapses and serious damage in Messina and in some towns on the north-east coast, including Patti and Naso; injuries and partial collapses occurred in Palermo, Agrigento, Reggio Calabria and more serious ones in Malta; slight damage occurred in some towns in southern Calabria.
The death toll was very high: in Catania around 16,000 people died out of a population of 20,000 residents; in Ragusa around 5,000 out of 9,000; in Lentini 4,000 out of 10,000; in Syracuse 4,000 out of 15,000, and in Militello 3,000 victims out of 10,000. In addition to being the most intense earthquake in Italy’s history, these numbers made it the second most disastrous earthquake on the peninsula, preceded only by the 1908 earthquake in the Strait of Messina (7.2 magnitude, but more than 120,000 deaths) and the 23rd most disastrous earthquake of all time (the Strait is in 12th place).
The only “positive” aspect of the 1693 earthquake was the reconstruction that followed. In fact, the architectural style used to rebuild the centres destroyed by that earthquake in the 18th century, Sicilian Baroque, developed. If today Noto, Ragusa, Catania, Syracuse and many other large and small towns in south-eastern Sicily boast fabulous artistic heritage, they owe it to the reconstruction, which set up the portents of Late Baroque art.

The senses tell The summit craters

The continuous evolution of the Etna summit craters

The senses tell Torre del Filosofo

The eruption of 1928 that destroyed the town of Mascali

The senses tell Acicastello and Acitrezza

The first volcanic structures of Etna, between Aci Castello and Aci Trezza


The senses tell Val Calanna

The senses tell The Etna Viewpoint

Etna: a marvellous group of different types of flora

Summit crater activity between 2011 and 2019

Humankind and the volcano: how should we behave? Volcanic risk

The Grand Tour in Sicily

Torre del Filosofo: at the base of the summit craters (2950 metres)

The 1669 eruption in Catania

The senses tell Acireale

The Elliptical, the first great volcano of Etna

Lachea Island and the Aci Trezza Stacks

The fault system of the “Timpe” of Acireale

The world’s first (almost successful) attempt to stop a lava flow: the eruption of 1991-93

Acireale and its “timpe”

The Etna viewpoint

Val Calanna, the first step towards a single large volcanic structure

A fauna yet to be discovered

The 2001 eruption of Etna, when the Mountain seemed to be alive

Acireale and reconstruction after the 1693 earthquake

An ever-evolving volcano

Valle del Leone and the Elliptical

The Jaci river

The senses tell The Red Mountains

The living mountain

Etna, a natural laboratory where experiments can be carried out

The earthquake that changed the geography of eastern Sicily in 1693

Why is Etna one of the most studied volcanoes in the world?

Empedocles and his passion for Etna

The Red Mountains and the destructive eruption of 1669

The senses tell Valle del Leone

The different names of the “Muntagna”

The “notches” of snow