The “Mountain of Fire”: Mount Etna

Mount Vesuvius may be Italy's most famous volcano, its place in the annals of history guaranteed with the destruction—and, more importantly, preservation—of the Roman town of Pompeii in 79 A.D. Vesuvius looms over one of the most densely populated stretches of coastline near Naples, and is generally viewed as a benign giant, quietly venting steam and smoke and ultimately fated to erupt again. The King of the Bay of Naples is your neighbor who keeps a friendly but unpredictable watch dog chained in his yard.

mt-etna-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Mount Etna, on the other hand, is your neighbor who has a pack of snarling, howling beasts roaming the streets, terrorizing the neighborhood and posing a constant threat of death and destruction. This lively volcano on the east coast of Sicily between the cities of Catania and Messina is the largest in Europe, and one of the most active in the world, a hulking yet dramatically beautiful mountain in a constant state of eruption. From belches of gas, bursts of steam, to full-on lava flows, Etna makes no bones about its danger to the millions of residents who live at its foot and the thousands of tourists who visit the hissing craters at its summit each year.

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Loving Italy to Death: Tips for Sustainable Travel

As news of popular destinations in Italy like Capri, the Cinque Terre, and Venice becoming so besieged by travelers that residents are exasperated with the crowds and local administrations are considering measures to limit the number of visitors, many Italophiles are asking themselves if they should cut those locations from their itineraries altogether.

guggenheim-venezia-cr-ciu-travel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

The answer, of course, is no: these and many other hot spots across Italy have economies driven mainly by tourism, and a precipitous drop would have negative effect for everyone from local hoteliers to the plumbers who keep their faucets from dripping. Instead, it's important to be the right kind of tourist, one who bolsters both the economy and the culture of a destination and helps locals continue to welcome visitors from across the globe with the warm hospitality for which Italy is known.

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Five Favorite Restaurants: 2017

We were fortunate this year to have been able to enjoy a number of long stays in our second home in central Italy. Though we savor any trip to our beloved Bel Paese, leisurely visits are by far our favorite. We're able to slow down to match the pace of our quiet Umbrian town, catch up with old friends, adventure out on day trips or weekends to explore new places and experiences, and circle back to our old stand-bys a second - or tenth - time around. Though time flies no matter how long our trip lasts, a long stay reminds us of just why it was we fell in love with Italy so many years ago.

good-friday-lunch-spaghetti-bottarga-villa-roncalli-foligno-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

We sat down to some wonderful meals during our trips in 2017, some at newly discovered eateries in both Italy and Switzerland, and some at long-time favorites that have withstood the test of time. This year's list of our five recommendations is a mixed bag of old and new, including a few restaurants we have been dining at for years and a few that hooked us after our first meal this year.

Regardless of whether you are planning a quick trip or a long stay, keep these spots in mind for a memorable meal in 2017 and beyond:

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