Having seen the results of Vesuvius erupting in Pompei, we decided to see the volcano itself today.
It turned out to be surprisingly easy to get up Vesuvius (details at the end of the post). This was in spite of numerous pages on the web detailing how confusing and difficult it would be. The trip up was in an open-top coach which provided spectacular views of the mount in one direction and the Bay of Naples in the other. We were not exactly alone in heading to Vesuvius – the procession of coaches was extensive. The roads up the mount are small are very twisty and it was somewhat amazing that the bigger coaches could make the turns at all.
Eventually you get to the car park that sits at about the 800m above sea-level point. From there you proceed on foot, slowly with the crowd, up the remaining 300m to the highest point you can reach by yourself. The path up is wide, but is steep at first and a little slip-prone thanks to all the dusty rock. As you proceed upward the views out over Naples are breathtaking, but it’s only when you are right up near the top that you finally get to see into the caldera.
At first it’s hard to get a sense of scale of the huge hole on the ground. Then you start to see the trees at the bottom and get a real sense that this is a significant chunk of empty space. There are plumes of steam or sulphur coming up from some vents on the side and numerous seismological devices spread around the rim. We read that Vesuvius is considered the most dangerous volcano in the world – it is due to blow again and more than three million people live on its slopes.
Coming back down the footpath was a bit more treacherous than going up and Don took a tumble resulting in a couple of spectacular bruises.
The drive down the mountain was also more difficult than going up with several minor traffic jams as coaches tried to negotiate past each other on the narrow roads. At one point our driver got out to help direct another driver round a corner. He came back onto our coach waving his arms and spitting, to widespread laughter, “French drivers!”. A few minutes later he got faced down on a corner by someone in a small car and exclaimed “Now that’s an Italian driver!”.
For those who might come after: The best way to get up Vesuvius is to catch the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei Scavi – Villa dei Misteri. As you leave the station you will see a little booth advertising a bus to the top of Vesuvius. You buy your tickets at the train ticket office. We were charged 10 euros a person, but they only charged for one child – that’s the return trip price. The bus leaves from just opposite the station and takes you all the way up to the car park on Vesuvius. While you are on the bus they will offer you vouchers for tickets to the Vesuvius park – buying these will save you a Euro on the ticket price. It doesn’t help with queuing though; when you get to the top you exchange your voucher for an actual ticket at the normal ticket office. Coming back down is just as simple. The service is run by Unico Campania.