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Climbing Mount Vesuvius

Home > Naples > Day Trips | Escape the City | Nature | Unusual Things to do | Walks
by Cressida Ryan (subscribe)
Classicist and traveller
Published January 30th 2020
As you wind your way south from Naples, by road or the Circumvesuviana, the towering peak of Mount Vesuvius looms large wherever you are. It's a landmark to guide yourself by, but also one you can visit as a destination in its own right. With transport available, most of the way up, a walk to the summit is both beautiful and achievable. Most famous for the devastating eruption of A.D. 79, Vesuvius continues to be an active volcano, indeed the only one on the European mainland to have erupted within the last century (March 17th-23rd 1944).

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
Vesuvius from the Circumvesuviana

1,281m high, you can choose to walk up the whole volcano, but most people choose to take some form of transport most of the way. Buses leave regularly from nearby destinations such as Herculaneum or Pompeii, or from further afield, for example, Naples itself. They career around the hairpin bends in the roads which snake up the side of the volcano, bringing new amazing views into view after every turn.

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
The slopes of Vesuvius

Eventually, just 200m (vertically) from the summit, is a car park. Here buses will drop you, and taxis hover, ready to meet more individual needs (a taxi to Herculaneum is reasonably priced, in the region of 40 Euros, if you want private transport).

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
Car park base camp

As in ancient times, the volcanic soil is fertile, giving rise to a beautiful landscape and plentiful viticulture. The Lacryma Christi wine, from the volcano grounds, is sold both on the volcano (in tourist booths, at acceptable prices) and in local shops. The name means 'tears of Christ', a reference to Christ crying over Lucifer's shoulder. It is supposed to be the closest to the wine drunk by the ancient Romans. If you are a wine lover, then red, white and rose are all distinctive and pleasant.

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
Vineyards on the slopes of Vesuvius

The initial walk winds around the side of the volcano, steep, but not too difficult. A shrine to Mary merges Classical and Catholic aspects of Italy en route.

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
Shrine en route

Once you reach the crater, you can go around a large part of the humpbacked peak, along the edge of the 'caldera' (a cauldron-like hollow) over the 'cone' summit.

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
The crater

The views are outstanding. Looking out over the sea, on a clear day, you can island spot, looking out for places such as Capri and remembering the millennia of people who have done the same. Designated a national park on 5th June 1995, the area is beautiful and carefully managed.

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
View from the top over the countryside

At the top is a small kiosk offering a few refreshments, including a local almond and black pepper biscuit, which is worth a try (with a good drink in hand). Souvenirs available include all kinds of things made out of lava, especially rosaries and skull-themed items. There is a bench at the edge of the crater for weary travellers to rest and be photographed having made it, and a good seating area by the kiosk itself.

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
The final path round the crater

The walk is not difficult, but the ground is uneven and the path largely covered in loose soil and stones. Railings stop you falling either into the crater, or over the edge of the slope. Walking sticks are offered at the entrance to the final ascent, and may prove helpful in steadying nervous walkers. At this point, you also pay the entrance fee of 10 Euros. It is worth going early in the morning (from 9am) as the paths are less crowded, the crater more peaceful, and the sun less intense. At a gentle pace, allow up to half an hour to get to the top. There are basic toilet facilities available in the car park.

vesuvius, naples, italy, pompeii, herculaneum
The crater (from a different viewpoint)

An active volcano, Vesuvius is expected to erupt again. Photographs in exhibitions at nearby sites (especially Villa Regina) show the terrifying majesty of the volcano in full flow. It is kept under close observation, with evacuation plans in place for the area. Pompeii, and indeed Naples, may one day be buried again, with 600,000 people in the danger area. In the meantime, climbing the volcano is a beautiful walk, reminding one of just how powerful and uncontrollable nature is.
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Why? Stunning views from an awesome active volcano
When: 9am opening, closing varies by season
Where: Mount Vesuvius
Cost: 10 Euros
Your Comment
The walk sounds easy enough and really it's a must do just tosay you saw the crater of Vesuvius.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|9635) 925 days ago
What an incredible once in a lifetime experience. Thank you for sharing your travels with us. The shrine was particularly poignant.
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|5088) 925 days ago
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