While Mount Vesuvius and Mount Etna are key to the tourist economies of Naples and Sicily, it's unlikely that Rome's tourist board is cheered at the news that long-dormant volcanoes just south of the city may be awakening.
The green Alban Hills, just 20 km away, are a popular day-tripping and hiking area. With no volcanic activity for over 36,000 years, they have been believed to be extinct.
Now, however, Italy's national Vulcanology and Geophysics Institute at Sapienza University, have restudied the area and found that "surprising results reveal these volcanoes are anything but extinct...They are moving out of a dormant state and are waking up."
Signs of the change, which involves underground chambers slowly filling up with liquid magma, include satellite data that show the hills are rising by about 2-3mm each year because of pressure from below. There are also signs of widening fissures.
Officials say the process is slow, and there's not likely to be an eruption for about another thousand years. But then, no one expected Mount Saint Helen's in Washington to have an eruption anytime soon, either.
Photo: Monte Calvo, one of the Alban Hills volcanoes (Deblu68 / Wikimedia)