Vesuvius, the Dormant Volcano
From every part of the Gulf of Naples Vesuvius is visible: placid (never has there been a more false impression), majestic, and cloaked in green. It is still an active volcano, even though it is presently in a quiet period of repose, a stillness that, however, will end sooner or later, with the next eruption that will follow the last – that of 1944 – during World War II. And so, Vesuvius can be seen from everywhere here, but what would happen if you climbed Vesuvius? What kind of view would you encounter? It offers a truly extraordinary experience, and we recommend it to all: an exceptional journey in a magnificent and unnerving environment, with one of the most spectacular panoramas in the world, and in the very cone of the volcano, with the great crater revealed in full view. An experience within (almost) everyone’s reach, and that we recommend to all.
Vesuvius National Park
Vesuvius is located within a fully protected natural park that is easily accessible by car or by public transport from Herculaneum and from Torre del Greco, with only a half-hour’s distance between their toll booths and the park entrance. Private and public coach buses access the service area by way of the entrance, and private cars have to park a short distance outside it in a designated parking area, while visitors must walk about an hour on an asphalt street, or rely on the minibuses that will shuttle them between the two parking areas. Armed with your ticket and replenished with water and sustenance from one of the many streetside cafes and restaurants, you pass through the gate and tackle the climb to the crater. It is a steep, but absolutely leisurely climb that can be done even in sneakers with “tank tread” hard soles, unless of course you happen to be equipped with proper trekking shoes. You do, however, stumble upon the occasional maniac wearing flip-flops or espadrilles; there are no limitations other than good sense. The climb takes place in a fascinating and foreboding natural landscape, with few shrubs, black soil, walls of black rock, and lava that has cooled over centuries and millennia. Here you won’t even find the gorse that could be seen in the first part of the climb and that inspired Leopardi’s last canto. After about half an hour (for the more trained) you arrive at the top of the crater, though by now you have already witnessed the magnificent panorama of the Gulf of Naples during the ascent, from the plain with the city, from the headland of Pozzuoli with Ischia visible in the distance.
Inside Vesuvius’s Crater
On the top, along the edge of the crater, the view extends to the Sorrento Peninsula, to Punta Campanella, to the island of Capri. “The most beautiful bay in the world” wrote Goethe two hundred and fifty years ago. Contrasting with this extraordinary rolling landscape, is the crater of the volcano, the infernal part of the visit. It is a large space, with its black rock, some fumaroles that reveal a level of volcanic activity that is very much alive, arousing the ominous feeling that under the ash that covers the lower part of the crater there is actual lava, whether shallow or deep. What a spectacle!
The walk is now all flat, easy and leisurely, and covers a good half of the crater. Also, at the top you will find some refreshment points where you can buy, in addition to souvenirs and postcards, local products, including the acclaimed wines that are produced from grapes grown on this very fertile volcanic soil.
You return by way of the same route, along with the many tourists and visitors who flock to this exceptional site.