|Mt Vesuvius and Mt Somma loom moodily over the ruins of Pompeii.|
|The 4x4 transportation|
|Looking down at the yellow-flowered bushes from the top.|
After zigzagging our way up the national park's access road, we were deposited roughly 600 meters from the top and warned that we had 50 minutes before the truck would return to take us down the mountain. "Be on time!" the driver warned in heavily-accented English as we got out. It was ridiculously hot outside, and I was glad we'd thought to bring water with us, although we had forgotten the sunscreen! Heat and humidity notwithstanding, we eagerly set up the dusty trail to the top, passing and being passed by others along the way.
The trail afforded stunning views of the Bay of Naples, Pompeii, and even Sorrento far off in the distance, but our primary focus was on reaching the crater. After laboring upwards for 15 minutes, we reached the park ranger station and finally - the mouth of Vesuvius!
While in Pompeii I couldn't shake the menacing shadow of Vesuvius, but from the top of the volcano looking down into the crater, it all looked so... ordinary. Just a depression, albeit quite large, on the top of a dusty old mountain. It wasn't anticlimactic, though. If anything, the commonplace appearance made Vesuvius seem all the more dangerous. While Mt Etna in Sicily is unmistakably volcanic, putting on regular Strombolian eruptions (i.e., lots of lava!), Vesuvius is the silent type that erupts rarely. By the time the Pompeiians realized that Vesuvius was a volcano, it was too late for many people. In fact, other than a few wisps of steam rising lazily from the side of the crater, you could fool yourself into thinking that Vesuvius really isn't a sleeping giant.
|The deceptively innocuous-looking crater.|
I can't even fathom how such a large-scale evacuation could take place swiftly and efficiently (especially when I have such a dubious opinion regarding the efficiency of Italians in the first place!). And why would anyone want to live so close to an active volcano anyway? As if reading my thoughts, a private tour guide nearby told her group, "When people ask 'why do you live so close to a volcano?' the response is always 'why not?'" I could only smile and shake my head at her words!
|My volcano-hiking outfit.|
|Sea-mist creeping in over Pompeii and clouding views of Sorrento.|
|Making clever use of the surroundings for safety's sake.|
|It was eery how the clouds crept up the mountain and then down into the crater.|
|"Smile! You're standing on top of a ticking time bomb!"|
Fifteen minutes before the bus driver told us he would return, we began to make our way down the crater, pausing to collect a few volcanic souvenirs along the way. We arrived at the parking lot on time; unfortunately, the driver did not. We waited forty minutes in the hot sun for his return, then waited another forty minutes at the bottom of the mountain for a different driver to bring us back to Pompeii. If you're on a strict time schedule, budget at least 4-5 hours for the whole experience and not the 3 hours that the brochure promises! We made it back in time to catch our trains, but we certainly stressed ourselves out on the top of Vesuvius and then again at the bottom while waiting on transportation.
If you are looking for a more strenuous adventure, it is possible to climb from the national park entrance all the way up to the crater. I'd guess that it would take at least four hours from start to finish (and that may be a low estimate!). There are also numerous hiking trails through the park if you want to spend even more time on Vesuvius or to go explore a little bit of Mt Somma.
Have you visited Mt Vesuvius? What did you think?
Cost: 22€ a person. This includes the entrance fee to the National Park itself and the Busvio del Vesuvio 4x4 vehicle drive to the summit from the entrance. The company provides free shuttle service from Pompeii to the National Park entrance.
Time Needed: A minimum of 3 hours, but I'd recommend budgeting 5 hours for delays.
Accessibility: From Naples, take the Circumvesuviana line towards Sorrento. Exit at the Pompeii Scavi - Villa dei Misteri stop. The free shuttle bus services meet right in front of the train station next to the walls that surround the ruins.
Tips: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water, sunscreen, and a hat if visiting during the summer. It was very hot at the summit until cloud cover alleviated some of the heat.
|Linking up with Bonnie Rose & other bloggers for #TravelTuesday!|