I apologise up front for my apparent lack of originality. Every dull tourist guide will lead you to the big volcano, the landmark of Naples. But it just wouldn't feel right to talk about this city without dedicating a chapter to it's dominating mountain. With fatherly love the Vesuvius embraces the bay of Naples, serving as a benchmark for those who have lost their way in the big city.
The Vesuvius has also become a personal monument in my life. When we first arrived here last year, we were welcomed in the Grand Vesuvius Hotel, with a view on the mountain. I remember looking out of the window and standing in absolute awe of this big volcano. I am not going to lie, at that moment I was terrified to undertake the move to the south of Italy. But like all things in life, you have to buckle up and undertake the journey. A few weeks later, I climbed the Vesuvius and was absolutely blown away by the magnificent view. And just like its mountain, big terrifying Naples became the beautiful scenery of my dolce vita.
Of course, underneath this beauty, the Vesuvius is literally a hot bad boy. He consists of a crater, that arose from subsequent eruptions of another volcano, the Monte Somma, which was even bigger. Underneath this crater, there are layers of ash and lava. This became clear in 79 A.D. when the volcano all of the sudden erupted and wiped out the Roman cities Pompeii and Herculaneum (which I will talk about in later posts). Imagine an explosion so strong, that a flow of stones, ash and fumes rose 33 km high (20,5 miles), releasing a thermal energy that among other things boiled people to death. Before that, the poor inhabitants thought they were just dealing with an extremely fertile ground for their trade. I remember reading Pliny the Younger in Latin class in high school, who wrote the only surviving testimony of the eruption. For the first time in 6 years of latin, I was fascinated by his words, describing a story that still makes a popular script for a Hollywood movie (Pompeii has just been released a few months ago).
79 A.D. was the most famous eruption of the Vesuvius, but now and then he has been making sure that he would not be forgotten. In the course of the centuries, there were no less then 40 eruptions, which claimed several lives. In 1944 the last eruption took place, which again destroyed a few villages. Since then, the volcano has been dormant. The current resting period is the longest in almost 500 years. Although they are not expecting a new eruption soon, the Vesuvius is being considered as one of the most dangerous volcanos. After all, he has the tendency to explode abrupt and extreme and has a high population density. Apparently there is an evacuation plan. Assuming that they know of the eruption about 14 days up front, they will accommodate people who live in the red zone (Naples city is not in this zone). Is it me, or are 14 days not that much? It would make a great story though!
Since 1995 the Vesuvius has become a national park, which is definitely worth a visit. You can drive the car up pretty high, parking it somewhat below the top. Then you have to follow a 20 minute trail to the crater. Beware, it's kind of steep, so don't underestimate it. When you reached the top, the view is BREATHTAKING. It almost feels like you are on top of the world. There is a spiral shaped path around the crater which you can follow. I would recommend to undertake this journey with clear weather, or the fog will steal your wonderful view of the bay. You won't see magma inside of the crater, but don't panic if you see some smoke coming out.
There are 3 options to visit the Vesuvius
- You can drive the car, following the A3 Naples - Salerno, and exit at the junction 'Torre del Greco'. Follow the signs 'Vesuvio' 13 km until the entrance.
- Take the train from the central station of Naples Garibaldi until Ercolano. You can book a seat in the shuttle bus in the travel agency next to the Ercolano station. The Vesuvius Express is a 20 minute drive to the parking of the Vesuvius.
- Or you can take the bus from Piazza Amfiteatro in Pompeii, which drives every hour between 8:00 and 14:30.
If you like to book a tour check out: http://www.busviadelvesuvio.com