The Salinelle are sites where the natural emission of fluids can be observed, leading to the formation of mud volcanoes; the sites are located near the town of Paternò, on the SW flank of Mt Etna volcano (Italy). The three sites are the Salinelle of Capuchins, or of the Stadium (Paternò), the Salinelle of the River (Paternò) and Salinelle of Vallone Salato or of San Biagio (Belpasso). The processes taking place here are represented by the emission of natural salty water, generally at room temperature, mud, gas and liquid hydrocarbons (Gianmanco et al., 2016).
The emitted fluids generally consist of hydrocarbons (mainly CH4) and hypersaline water, variably charged with mud that often pond in pools (from centimetres to meters in diameter). The mud and water mixtures are highly variable and, in some cases, mud is the only fluid erupted with gas, and it builds cones up to a few meters high and with base diameter up to about ten meters. The emitted waters have rather uniform and constant chemical composition. The chemical abundance of major species in solution (on equivalent basis) is Na»Ca>Mg>K and Cl-»HCO3->SO4= (Amici et al., 2013).
The peculiarity of the Salinelle sites lies in the fact that the fluid emissions, unlike at other similar sites, originate from the admixture of magmatic/hydrothermal gas, which makes up the bulk of the emitted gas phase, together with crustal gas coming from hydrocarbon reservoirs. This produces unique landforms, with a bland relief, linked with the emission of an abundant liquid component without the clay fraction, also due to the condensation of high-enthalpy fluids of magmatic origin.
The mud volcano can generate paroxysmal eruptions, emitting thermalized waters, which make the Salinelle interesting for volcanological and geothermal studies as well. The emission of fluids is continuous, and the site is an excellent example of pseudo-volcanic phenomena, resulting in different and peculiar morphologies, such as calderas, craters, and flows of mud.

Credits: Model description by Emanuela De Beni; Photo collection, photogrammetry processing and 3D Model are from Massimo Cantarero. Logistics support is from: Alfio Amantia, Alfio Messina, Anna Maria Vicari – INGV Osservatorio Etneo

The 3D model was obtained from a UAV survey on 24/09/2015, overflying the mud volcano at 30 m height; the area covered by the survey is 2,0 ha wide.


  • Amici S., Turci M., Giulietti F., Giammanco S., Buongiorno M.F., La Spina A. and Spampinato L., 2013. Volcanic environments monitoring by drones mud volcano case study International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XL-1/W2, 2013UAV-g2013, 4-6 September 2013, Rostock, Germany.
  • Giammanco S., Carbone S., Pistorio A. Il Geosito “Sistema delle Salinelle del Monte Etna” (Paternò e Belpasso – Sicilia orientale) – The “System of the Salinelle of Mt. Etna” Geosite (Paternò and Belpasso – eastern Sicily). 2016 in Geologia dell’Ambiente Periodico trimestrale della SIGEA Società Italiana di Geologia Ambientale Associazione di protezione ambientale a carattere nazionale riconosciuta dal Ministero dell’ambiente, della tutela del territorio e del mare, con D.M. 24 maggio 2007, G.U. n. 127 del 4.6.2007 Supplemento al n. N. 3/2016 Anno XXIV – luglio-settembre 2016.