The still active volcano dominates the landscape, looming ominously
over Napoli. The last eruption in 1944 blasted open the cone and
the plume of smoke, that had long been a constant reminder of
the peril, also disappeared. This may have eased the minds of
some, but living in the shadow of Vesuvio is akin to staying on
the fault line in Los Angeles – scientists consider more
eruptions a sure thing.
Its name is probably derived from the Greek besubios
or besbios, which means fire. The volcano erupted with such ferocity
on 24 August 79 AD that it all but destroyed the towns of Pompei
and Ercolano and pushed the coastline out several kilometres.
The subsequent years have witnessed regular displays of the mountain’s
wrath, the more destructive being those of 1631, 1794 ( when the
town Torre del Greco was destroyed ), 1906 and, most recently,
1944 when poverty-stricken Napoli was struggling back onto its
feet under Allied occupation.
To reach the summit of Vesuvio you can catch a
Trasporto Vesuviano bus from Ercolano train station. There are
five a day leaving at 8.30, 9.30 and 11 am and 12.40 and 1.40
pm from Pompei. If you are travelling by car, take the A3 and
exit Ercolano. You can follow the signs through the town, but
a road map would also be handy. The bus will take you to summit
car park, from were you walk a distance of 1.5km (it takes 30
minutes if you are quick). Work on a funicular railway to replace
the long out-of-service chair lift is yet to get underway. You
must pay L 9000 to enter the summit area and be accompanied by
a guide, although some people do sneak through unaccompanied.
Once there, you can walk around the top of the crater. There are
several bars at the summit car park. Those with cars can drive
on past the turn-off for the summit car park and head closer up
to the crater.