Mount Etna, one of the world's most active volcanoes, belched smoke and ashes in a new eruption today.

However, Italian authorities said it posed no danger to the surrounding villages.

"We've seen worse," said Stefano Branco, the head of the INGV National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology in the nearby city of Catania.

Estimating that the eruption from Etna's southeastern crater began late this afternoon, Mr Branco insisted that the latest burst of activity was "not at all worrying".

Nevertheless, with small stones and ashes raining down, authorities decided to close Catania's international airport.

Etna in full volcanic activity as seen from the port of Catania
Volcanic ash fell on vehicles in Catania

The emergency authorities said on their Twitter account that they were monitoring the situation closely in the three villages at the foot of the volcano -- Linguaglossa, Fornazzo and Milo.

Images showed a spectacular rose-coloured plume of ashes above the snow-capped summit, but the cloud had largely dissipated by nightfall, while lava flows continued to glow.

At 3,324 metres, Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and has erupted frequently in the past 500,000 years.