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Mount Vesuvius. Mainland Europe’s only active volcano

By Tuesday, 03 January 2023 11:23
Mount Vesuvius Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe, forms a dramatic backdrop for the city Naples and its famous bay. 

The volcano’s lava and hot ash destroyed two ancient cities

For visitors to Naples this instantly recognizable landmark is the smallest active volcano in the world, and on and off to remind us it is merely slumbering, it spouts sulphur steam and trails of smoke high into the sky above its main crater. 

Vesuvius’s most famous eruption occurred in 79 A.D. when it literally blew its top, pouring horrifying flows of burning lava and ash onto the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, burying them and all who lived in them. Today these ancient ruins – and the perfectly-conserved bodies of many of their inhabitants - are among the Campania region’s most visited attractions and should not be missed.   

Thousands of visitors climb to the top every year

The highest point of Naples’ landmark active volcano is Mount Summa at 1,149 metres asl. It also has the main cone, or Cono Grande with a huge crater and a smaller cone.  Considered one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes, it has a recorded eruption cycle of about every 20 years, though the last important eruption was in 1944.  Thousands of visitors climb up to its main crater every year but this is not a Disney ride. Vehicles have to be left at 1,000-metres and climb on up on foot to a moon-like landscape. But of course it is well worth the climb, as the views from the top over the Gulf of Naples, from Sorrento to Salerno, the islands of Procida and Ischia and  the sprawling city of Naples, are simply stunning.

Free tours with volcanology guides 

A trip to this active volcano is a perfect half-day excursion from Naples which is just six kilometres away. The point where cars have to stop (there is a large car park for which there is a fee) ends about 250 metres from the edge of the crater. Of the nine trails, number 5 is the one most tourists take, walking up slopes that are marked by lava flows. This can take from 15 to 30 minutes (the average gradient is just 14%) and once at the top it is a good idea to take one of the scheduled tours with a local volcanology guide. They only last ten minutes, but they give an excellent overview of what you are seeing, and they are free.    For information: https://www.parconazionaledelvesuvio.it

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