Published: February 8th 2008January 4th 2008
Well, I have climbed Mount Vesuvius. And I won't lie, I feel pretty cool saying that. The volcano is the only volcano on mainland Europe to have erupted in the last century, and owes most of its fame for the destruction of the cities Pompeii and Herculaneum back in 79 AD. But don't worry, according to its main website: the Park is closed while Vesuvius is erupting
Like most people I assume, I have never climbed a volcano, have never looked inside a volcano, have never seen a volcano erupt. A met a girl later on who, upon telling her I went to the top of Mount Vesuvius, asked if I got to look inside and see the lava bubbling up in the pit of the volcano. I tried hard not laugh at that, but I'll admit that I even had some misconceptions about what a volcano would look like too (though, I never though I'd see lava... that would have disturbed me and sent me running in the other way).
Mostly, I thought I'd be able to see the volcano all the way down to the "abyss." Or at ways down. I thought the top would be fairly
narrow in diameter as well, kind of like a small little spout that would resemble an 8th grade science project volcano. Let's just say that volcano top is huge. Granted, when Vesuvius erupted in 1944, it blew a considerable chunk off of the top which further enlarged the rim perimeter (as did every other eruption). The actual perimeter of the top was unreal and unexpected because of its sheer size. My pictures do it no justice, mainly because there was no picture I could take that would incorporate the top of the volcano as a whole. And at the opening, the interior walls were nearly vertical. The path along the outside of the cone was separated from the pit by other rocks jutting upwards and fences that prohibited any curious onlookers from going too far and over the edge.
It was actually pretty barren on top of the volcano. I didn't feel as though I was on another planet, but there was something somewhat extraterrestrial about it. Who knew the apex of something so that is so active and unpredictable as an icon could be relatively tame and feel like one of the most remote places on earth. I
View from halfway up Mount Vesuvius
think a part of this though wasn't because there weren't a lot of people there, or plant life or anything else, but because it was so quiet, save the crazy gusts of wind. And these intense, high altitude gusts sometimes prevented normal conversation; you had to either yell to whoever was standing next to you, or stand behind a giant rock for shelter. Today I basically became Explorer Liz and completed Expedition Volcano.
Don't let something being described as barren discourage you though. What there was to see on Mount Vesuvius was still impressive. The volcano interior was incredibly colorful and visibly marked with evidence of violent eruptions of the past and streaming lava. Though there wasn't much activity (a good thing), there was still a considerable amount of steam that was being released into the air from the inside of the cavity. Using only a bit of my imagination, I could see deep into the pit and peer past the colored rocks and bits of ash and sediment and into the depths of the earth.
The lifelessness on top of the volcano contrasted with the land below. The best thing about climbing Mount Vesuvius was the view
you were rewarded with in every aspect imaginable. On the way up and down, there were pausing points that doubled as a scenic outlook to the mountains of the Italian interior. On the very top, the whole Bay of Naples was below you and you could see from Sorrento to Naples with one turn of the head. Had the weather cooperated a bit more (it was rather rainy and cloudy), I probably could have stood there and just pondered the Mediterranean meeting the coastal towns for hours.
The bus ride back down was pretty as well. Besides slowly turning on switch-backs of road the whole way down through a surprisingly vegetated mountainside, we were afforded views of the newly emerged sun setting behind Ischia. I only wish we had stopped the bus so we could have taken a picture of it. It was a great way to end the day trip.
[I think we're going back to Rome tomorrow. Keith leaves for the States on the 6th and we'd rather have another day there than spend his last day in Europe in Naples. No offense to Naples. I do want to come back and give it a
fair chance. And I'm sure I actually will.]
There are more photos below