Around Us / Vesuvius
The Vesuvius in front of me.
Now it is blazing and smoking.
What an extraordinary sight!
Imagine an enormous firework
that does not stop for even a minute.
Nicolaj V. Gogol’, from a letter to his mother from Naples, 1838
Vesuvius, the only active volcano in continental Europe, is probably the most famous in the world and its unmistakable outline crowns and dominates the Gulf of Naples. The wonderful panorama stretching from the Sorrento peninsula to Capo Posillipo: the scene is unforgettable, especially in the soft light of dawn or against an intense sunset.
The irresistible forces of nature coming true on the volcano fascinated intellectuals and artists, such as Wolfgang Goethe, Alexander Dumas and Charles Dickens. They found in this mount a suggestive source of inspiration exalting the romantic value and declaring their astonishment about its savage beauty.
Majestic and menacing, there is no better starting point to begin a journey through the history and culture of Campania. A journey which takes us back in time, as far as that 24th of August in 79 A.D. when Vesuvius “put on a show” with a devastating eruption which buried Pompeii, Herculaneum and Oplontis (Torre Annunziata).
The most recent eruption occurred in 1944 and since then, the volcano has remained dormant. To preserve the volcanic area in 1995 it was created the Vesuvius National Park (8.800 hectares) and in 1997 it was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
The park is divided in two volcanic bodies, formed by Vesuvius and Mount Somma, have different environmental features: the Vesuvian side has typical Mediterranean vegetation, whereas the Somma side, which faces north and is consequently cooler and moister, is covered with chestnuts, oaks, maples, holm-oaks and birches.
Among the 900 registered floral species remember the orchid and the broom, mentioned by the poet Leopardi.
The slopes are covered with orchards and vineyards that yield some of the most typical and renowned produce of Campania. Among this products there are apricots, “a piènnolo” cherry tomatoes and the famous wine Lacryma Christi.
To visit the Vesuvius there are 9 different paths, but the “historic” climb, however, is the ascent to the crater, which begins in Herculaneum and is 4 kilometers long. It takes 3 hours to reach the altitude of 1,170 meters, at which point the crater’s imposing chasm opens out, some 600 meters in diameter and 200 meters deep.
From the Eighteenth century many travelers have been prepared to tackle the climb up to the top in order to admire the panorama and look down into the crater. Climbing the cone, walking through the lava rivers or one of the 9 paths, as well as simply breathing Vesuvius’s air is an unique experience for whoever visits Naples and Campania.
Just like a divine figure it terrorizes and seduces at the same time, Vesuvius has a magnetism able to instigate deep emotions.