The Vesuvius: the symbol of Naples with unsettling charm.

Popular and not very feared, the Volcano is never heard since 1944, when the countries of San Sebastiano and Massa di Somma were destroyed, a stream of lava swallowed the funicular and the fall of very thin ash was visible from miles of distance. This long time of rest has generated in many people the conviction that the Vesuvius is died out, but it doesn’t. The Vesuvius remains an active volcano and the students don’t flatter themselves: it is not possible to precisely determine the current probability of eruptions, the recovery of the activities shall be deemed a highly probable event in the next 50 or 100 years. That’s why the Vesuviano Observatory constantly checks on it. In the meantime the density and the number of urban developments in the area has skyrocketed, proportionally increasing the risks associated.

The place-name “Vesuvius” comes from the source “Ves”, which it means “fire”

The origin

From ever, the people of Pompeii, thought it was a quiet mount. Today we know that maybe it was just asleep since 700-800 years, when it destroyed the city, in 79 AD. A mount covered by vineyards right over the top, which only few characters of that period, like Strabone (in 19 AD), Diodoro Siculo and Marco Vitruvio Pollione, had recognized it as volcano, in the time of Augustus. Only on 24 August in 70 AD, the sharp reality: at around noon the Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabia and Oplonti and it strongly started the history of the Volcanoes with the first documented eruption, whose the letters of Plinio il Giovane represent the oldest work. Anyway the modern studies have established that probably the first eruptions of the Vesuvius started about 27.000 years ago and since then the big explosive eruptions, has been at least seven. Despite that, the volcanic complex of Somma -Vesuvius was the last to appear and so it is the youngest of all the comprehensive series of volcanos, which includes the Pontine Islands, Roccamonfina, Ischia, Procida and Vivara, the Campi Flegrei and others volcanos more ancient. The volcanic system of Somma- Vesuvius, is the most typical volcanic machinery, called “corral-shaped”, which means composed of two volcanic concentric structures, one within another, based on size, formation and age. The volcano “container” is the Mount Somma, which ended its activity about 17.000 years ago. Of its, remains a big caldera which reach its maximum elevation in Punta Nasone (1.132 m). Later, inside the caldera, the Vesuvius with its Gran Cono (1.281 m) rose up. The valley, which it link up the walls of the ancient crater of Somma with the most recent cone of the Vesuvius, is 5 miles long and it is called the “ Giant’s Valley”, on its west side there is Atri del Cavallo, and the “Valle dell’Inferno” on the east.

The ascent to the Gran Cono

To get up on the Vesuvius by car, we usually start from Torre del Greco, even if there are others options. From the toll road of Torre del Greco, you travel through a carriageway until you reach the 1000 meters above sea level. You pass through several inhabited developments, recently built , which they shall contain lava outcrops, banks of ash and cultivation of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers, favoured by the fertility of the volcanic ground. Then on your right side, there is a fork which it leads to the Volcanic Vesuviano Observatory, whose construction began in 1841, and from 1911 to 1914, between its directors there was also Giuseppe Mercalli, one of the most famous volcano expert in the world, thanks to him we have the well-known intensity scale of a earthquake. You continue along the road, which is now much less steep, that leads to the west part of the caldera of Mount Somma, called Atrio del Cavallo, because here the horses of the stopped passengers, were refreshed. The way goes on, along the base of the Gran Cono and leaves on the right, the junction which it leads to the lower station of the chairlift. The driveway ends into a spacious parking, fitted with a rest stop, where you can leave the car and continue by walk toward the crater of the Vesuvius. A steep path, but easy, leads to the top (1.165 m) in less of a hour. Over there, there is a ticket office to proceed your excursion and enjoy a breath-taking view on the entire coastline and on the inside of the crater, which it has a diameter of about 600m and is 200m deep.

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