The Vesuvius: the symbol of Naples with unsettling charm.

Very popular and little feared, the Volcano hasn’t been heard of since 1944. In that year, the villages of San Sebastiano and Massa di Somma were destroyed, a flow of lava swallowed up the funicular and the fall of very fine ash was visible for kilometers away. distance. This long period of rest has generated the belief that Vesuvius is extinct, but it is not.

Vesuvius remains an active volcano. Although it is not possible to precisely determine the probability of eruptions, the resumption of activity is considered a highly probable event in the next 50 or 100 years. Meanwhile the density and number of urban developments in the area has skyrocketed, proportionately increasing the risks involved.

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


The Pompeians have always thought it was a peaceful mountain, covered with vineyards right above the top. Today we know that perhaps he had only been asleep for 700-800 years, when he destroyed the city in 79 AD. Only a few personalities of the time – such as Strabone (in 19 AD), Diodorus Siculus and Marcus Vitruvius Pollio – had recognized it as a volcano at the time of Augustus.

Only on August 24, 70 AD, the harsh reality: towards midday Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and Oplontis. It was the first documented eruption, of which the letters of Pliny the Younger represent the oldest work. However, modern studies have established that Vesuvius’ first eruptions probably began about 27,000 years ago, and since then there have been at least seven major explosive eruptions.

Despite this, the Somma-Vesuvius volcanic complex was the last to appear. It is therefore the youngest of the entire vast series of volcanoes, which includes the Pontine Islands, Roccamonfina, Ischia, Procida and Vivara, the Campi Flegrei and others older volcanoes. The volcanic system of Somma-Vesuvius is called “enclosure”, i.e. composed of two concentric volcanic structures, one inside the other.

The ascent to the Gran Cono

To get to Vesuvius by car, you usually start from Torre del Greco, although there are other options. From the Torre del Greco toll booth, take a carriageway until you reach an altitude of 1000 metres. You cross several recently built housing settlements and crops of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers, favored by the fertility of the volcanic soil.

Then on your right there is a crossroads that leads to the Vesuvian Volcanic Observatory, whose construction began in 1841. Among its directors there was also Giuseppe Mercalli, one of the most famous volcanists in the world. Thanks to him we have the well-known intensity scale of an earthquake.

Continue along the road, now much less steep, which leads to the western part of the Monte Somma caldera, known as the Atrium of the Horse, because the horses of stopped passengers were refreshed here. The route continues, skirting the base of the Gran Cono and leaving the crossroads on the right that leads to the valley station of the chairlift.

The driveway ends in a large car park, equipped with a rest stop. Here you can leave your car and continue on foot towards the Vesuvius crater. A steep but easy path takes you to the top (1,165 m) in less than an hour. From the top you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire coast and the inside of the crater, which has a diameter of about 600m and is 200m deep.

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