Following my hotel review of our Italy holiday, I thought I would continue the theme and review the amazing experience of climbing to the top of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii.
Vesuvius is located in the Bay of Naples, about 6 miles east of Naples. It is visible from a wide distance, and when we stayed in Sorrento, we could see this majestic volcano from our hotel balcony. It is a bit scary really, knowing that the volcano is there, and it could errupt any time soon, but that didn't stop us from wanting to climb it.
We booked a coach trip from the hotel, and we were in a mixed party of English and German tourists. As we go near the volcano, our excitement grew, as we saw the sheer scale of the thing. It is 4202 ft high currently. The coach drove along the road that wound up the volcano, explaining that many people live on the slopes of the volcano, although they can't get their houses insured! The soil is very fertile, and many people grow grapes to make wine.
About half way up the volcano, we got out of the coach. To my shock and amazement, there was a restaurant half way up the volcano! We sat and enjoyed a hearty chicken dinner, while trying to suspend our disbelief at the location! It wouldn't surprise me if they stuck a Mcdonalds up here in a few years time!
We drove up a bit further, before getting out to complete the climb to the summit on foot. The road stops 200M before the summit. We were offered walking canes to help us climb, as the path was quite steep. The views were absolutely stunning. It was so surreal, that as you got nearer the top, the paths were lined with little stalls, with traders selling various souvenirs and bits of coloured minerals. I would be really worried about these guys if the volcano was to erupt!
We finally got to the top, where we could see the crater. I suppose you expect to see something like the volcanoes in the movies, where you can see a deep, bubbling pit of lava below, but it was nothing like that! The crater was sealed, so all you could see was a dip in the rock, with steam coming out of it. It was still awesome to look at though.
The last erruption of Vesuvius was in March, 1944. It was preceeded by lava flows. The erruption before that was in 1929, but there was a major one before that in 1906. It actually killed 100 people. Experts do not predic that the mountain will errupt in the near future, but say the risk of it errupting again is very high, bevause of the unpredicable nature of the volcano. The next erruption could be the most deadly, as there are many people living near the volcano.
Climbing Vesuvius was fascinating and humbling. it is wise to respect this sleeping giant.
When we had an enjoyable holiday in Sorrento one of the must see things on our list was Vesuvious the famous volcano responsible for the demise of Pompeii and the thing that dominates the skyline above Naples
We combined our visit to Vesuvius with an afternoon visit to Pompeii and it makes an enjoyable day out. We travelled by coach from Sorrento which takes about an hour and it is certainly a winding road up to the summit that I would not want to drive myself.
You cannot drive to the summit but do have to complete a fairly steep winding twenty five minute walk of about 1.5km however it is pretty stable under foot and tarmac so it is very manigable unless you are really unfit. The admission fee was seven euro and at the bottom there is a small shop and cafe and a bloke giving out walking sticks, he collects these back at the bottom and will ask for a donation, we gave him 5 euro between the two of us.
The views out across the Bay of Naples are really impressive and you can see for miles from the summit, it is also fascinating to look down into the crater as well and to look for any feint plumes of smke which serve to remind you that if it were to blow you would be a gonna.
You can walk all of the way around the crater if you want to and it is an impressive piece of nature to behold.
A trip to Vesuvus is weather dependant and towards the end of our visit a mist was beginning to descend which took out the views but it was still an impressive place to visit and a must see if you find yourself in the Amalfi area.
Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano that is situated to the east of Naples in Italy. The volcano that looks down onto the ancient city of Pompeii (Pompeii along with Herculaneum were the two roman cities that suffered up to 25,000 fatalities collectively due to the ash of the volcano suffocating them making this the most famous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD) is the only volcano on European mainland to have erupted in the last 100 years making this arguably the most dangerous volcano in the world. My one and only experience of Vesuvius was when I was twelve and our family decided to visit the site of Pompeii and Vesuvius. I remember very well how we walked on paths around the mountain in extreme heat and exhaustion determined to get as high and close as we were permitted to go. Once we'd reached this point I can recall looking down into the crater and just seeing this huge, massive space big enough for three football pitches in width and length and some more. As a child seeing this was amazing and definitely worth the effort. I would recommend visiting this historical site if you are a keen naturalist and a keen site-seer as this no doubt would be one of these places that you would just have to see. The only thing that I would say is due to the intense heat and lack of opportunity to buy fluids (I remember getting halfway up and going to buy water when all they had was sparkling so I carried on without) I would not take a baby or child of young age because it would be probably too dangerous and hot for them. In conclusion if you are interested in this kind of thing or are just simply curious to see one of nature's greatest creations and don't mind a bit of a walk then I would certainly recommend Italy's great Mount Vesuvius.
In process of updating this review. In process of updating this review.
I was really looking forward to the climb to the top (It's quite a walk and ideally you need a backpack with a good supply of plastic bottles of water, sunhat, decent walking shoes and a coat or jumper). The Ercolano winds through pretty woodland and lava fields to a car park. It's about a 30 minute walk to the top but well worth it. When we went there was an Italian gentleman at the start of the climb giving out walking sticks(not sure if you had to pay for them as we did not use them). The path to the top is easy to follow and has a wooden railing to side of it.
There are several viewing bays on the way where you can catch your breath and admire the amazing views over the bay of Naples and down on the spreading slopes where once roamed the army of Spartacus and the Aqua Augusta (Roman Aquaduct) carried fresh water down to the bay. At the top you feel like you are floating in the clouds(or maybe it's just me having a dizzy moment again lol), the views are fantastic and you can look down into the crater. Definitely worth the climb to the top(if you are fit and able) the views more than make up for the climb. If you are tired you can stop on the way at various points for a rest.
Thank you for reading, this review is also posted on Ciao with photographs.
When you arrive in Naples you cannot help but see Vesuvius as it dominates the skyline. Well to be exact unless you have checked it out before arriving what you actually see is a mountain dominating the city as unless you see it from above it is not possible to tell that it is a volcano as there is a severe absence of smoke billowing from its centre and therefore it just looks like any other lump of rock.
I had my suspicions as our coach began the one hour journey to Sorrento but I was still grateful when the tour rep directed our gaze to Vesuvius as I did not want to appear stupid with a premature announcement to the kids as in their eyes Im still an all knowing oracle and font of all that is wise.
Needless to say a trip to the top of Vesuvius was definitely on the cards and we combined this with a visit to Pompeii which I have already reviewed.
Like us for the majority and organized tour is the normal route to the top, for those who are extremely brave (read suicidal) you can hire a car and drive yourself however be prepared to give way to the much larger coaches that take the hairpin corners in a style perfected by Jensen Button. For those using public transport buses leave Ercolano train station however it is important to check the times to ensure you do not have a long walk back.
Brief history of Vesuvius
Standing at 1281meteres in height Vesuvius is most famous for the eruption in AD 79 that accounted for both Pompeii and Herculaneum. The last activity was seen in 1944 which accounted for the chair lift that went to the summit and also resulted in the absence of any smoke from the crater. Just to reassure those planning a visit the absence of smoke is not a good sign as this means all of the gases do not have anywhere to escape to and the latest prediction is that the volcano will blow in 2008.
The loss of the chair lift followed the earlier loss of a cable car system in 1906 and therefore the Italian authorities have decided to give up on making it easy to reach the summit and now you have to walk the final bit to reach the summit.
If you are holidaying in the height of summer it is probably best to time your visit for the morning as you will avoid the worst of the heat and crowds. You also have to factor in that you are quite high up so it can be cold at the summit.
Our coach dropped us off at the coach park which left us a 1.5km walk up to the summit. First we had to pay the admission fee which is 6 euro however children under 8 get in for free. Taking advantage of an undernourished 10 year old I promised to visit the local church to admit my sins and w were off on the hike up to the summit.
As you approach the entrance there are some ramshackle stores and a café which gives you the chance to buy water and visit the toilet if the coach does not have one. Obviously the lack of competition means that the prices are on the high side with a small bottle of water setting you back 2 euro and a further 50 cents if it works its way through you before you leave.
Whilst the path up to the summit is wide enough it is largely made up of loose stones and gravel and is a tough enough walk as it wins to the summit in sensible shoes such as boots or trainers, certainly flip flops, open sandals and anything with a heel is not advised, also watch out for places where the stone is quite smooth as I saw two people end up on their bums during the descent. There is an old man handing out walking sticks at the bottom and I would recommend taking these, he will expect a donation when you return them but he seemed happy enough with a 1 euro coin and the return of his three sticks.
Vesuvius is a national park and at the summit there is a building housing the park wardens. Once there is a group of sufficient size they will provide a short guided tour of the summit providing some very useful information and the cost of this is included in the price of admission. Our Italian guide had perfect English and was very informative as well as providing the best laugh of the day when she described the evacuation plan for Naples which would be complete in seven days before adding that scientists reckon they will be able to give 48 hours notice of an eruption. Even my kids could do the math on that one. The guide was also useful as she was able to point out the one place in the crater where smoke is still escaping, for ages I could see nothing before realizing that I needed to take my sun glasses off, certainly it is the faintest trail of smoke and without the guide knowledge we would never have seen it.
There are a couple more gift shacks at the summit selling the usual tat and we treated ourselves to a Mars bar to provide the energy for the return journey.
You can walk around the entire crater and the views inside it are pretty spectacular, it is just the knowledge that you are stood on top of something that is so powerful that if it were to erupt at that moment you would be on the way to Africa via the moon and a million people would lose their lives in the surrounding area. Even more spectacular are the surrounding views of Naples and the coastline branching out either side. On the day we visited there was a slight mist settled over the Bay of Naples however the water looked flat calm as the surface was disturbed slightly by the crossing of the ferries and pleasure crafts. Naples itself is not the most beautiful of cities but the views from Vesuvius do give a perspective of the sheer scale of the city and how densely packed its inhabitants are. Certainly it left me with the lasting impression that if Vesuvius does blow it will take a monumental effort to move that number of people out of the city with the water, an airport and some two lane motorways the only options available.
General Tips for Vesuvius
Check on the weather before departure as if the weather draws in the path to the summit gets closed
Sensible shoes are a must and it is worth taking advantage of the walking sticks
Have some water with you and also something warm as the temperature drops at the summit.
It is not suitable for those who have difficulty walking over steep and uneven ground however the views from the coach park of Naples are still worth the journey up there and are free.
The guidebook does warn about some private bus operators scamming tourists by giving false information on the local bus times hoping to sell their own tours so check details inside the train station.
It was definitely worth the time and effort to get to the summit with the walk taking us about 25 minutes however the views will take away what breath you have left and the whole visit took a morning to complete which included the traveling time from Sorrento leaving us an afternoon to visit Pompeii and a chance to see just what this volcano was capable of.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.