To The Top Of Vesuvius

We spent a Sunday hiking the crater of the most famous volcano in the world, walking over 3 miles on the trail that runs along the lower edge of the Vesuvius crater. Even with the distant haze there were so many unforgettable views: the Apennine Mountains, the crests of Mount Somma, and the Bay of Naples and its islands. We enjoyed searching for rocks and minerals, looking for local flora, and enjoying a glass of Lacryma Christi wine at the top and a celebratory prosecco at the end of the path. Exhausted and sunburned we stopped for a bite to eat and an Aperol spritz, while enjoying a view of the cone, before heading back home.

The ascent begins in Herculaneum, from the station at an altitude of 1000m, where there are splendid views of the north side of Mount Somma. The path, with hairpin bends, gently climbs for about 800m overlooking the Valle del Gigante, with remnants of the lava of the 1944 eruption, colored by the silvery-gray of the lichen Stereocaulon vesuvianum and the yellow of the broom. Rustic species grow on the sides of the volcano: bladder campion, yellow hornpoppy, red valerian, helichrysum, and bloody dock. From the edge of the crater, overlooking the Bay of Naples, the fumaroles are visible, the signs of an active, albeit quiescent, volcano. The view extends from Sorrento to the island of Capri. Beyond Capannuccia, a close destination, the path narrows and the broom predominates in the vegetation. The route continues downhill, partially overlapping the Strada Matrone; after about 600m, you turn left along the Valle dell’Inferno (Valley of Hell) to the access gate to the station at 1000m.


On March 18, 1944 the latest eruption began on Mount Vesuvius; it was a prevalently effusive eruption, with some explosions of a modest nature which led to spectacular lava fountains. The lava flow emerged from fissure vents at the basis of the Gran Cono, descending downwards along the Valle dell’Inferno to reach, after three days, the centers of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio and Massa di Somma, causing serious damage and claiming lives. The ash produced and spurted into the atmosphere reached even Albania. The small internal cone disappeared with the explosion from which the famous “plume” used to flow out, and which is typical of Mount Vesuvius iconographic representations. On March 31st the eruption ended and Mount Vesuvius entered the present “quiescent” phase.


The volcanic complex of Vesuvius and Mount Somma is one of the mineralogically most interesting areas in the world and certainly the richest in Italy. To date, 266 different mineralogical species have been found, to which are added at least another 20 still of uncertain identification. 64 species are to be considered  “type localities,” that is, found for the first time in this area and 10 have been found exclusively on this volcano. 

In Posilecheata, published in 1684, Pompeo Sarnelli tells the story of a noble gentleman, Vesuvius, passionately falling in love with a beautiful girl, Capri. As families fiercely oppose their love, and after many vicissitudes, he transformed into a volcano and she turned into an island. Today Mount Vesuvius and the Blue Island look at each other across the Bay of Naples, in a romantic landscape of rare beauty. The island of Capri is separated from Punta Campanella, the most southern point of the Sorrento peninsula by a sea strait called Bocca Piccola. The Sorrentine Peninsula is the end of Monti Lattari, a range of mountains whose name refers to the production of milk and cheese (for the flocks of goats grazing in the area). The Monti Lattari are the western extension of the Monti Picentini in the Campanian Apennines. 



Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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