Italy has its fair share of active volcanoes with Etna on Sicily, Stromboli on one of the Aeolian Islands and Mount Vesuvius near Naples.
Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on mainland Europe. Visitors can walk to the top to enjoy stupendous views over the Bay of Naples and appreciate the power of a volcano that was responsible for the destruction of the ancient roman sites of Pompeii, Herculaneum and surrounding settlements when it erupted in AD79. Today, Mount Vesuvius it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3 million people living below and its tendency towards violent, explosive eruptions.
We were keen to see the ancient roman sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the thought of walking up an active volcano with the potential danger made it all the more exciting to visit. Realistically these three sights can't be seen in a day so we caught the train from Civitavecchia to Naples and splashed out on a few nights at Hotel Potenza
located in the central square of Piazza Garibaldi and minutes away from the station... with air-con and cheaper than a night in a marina - who would have thought!
The next morning we caught the Circumvesuviana train to Ercolano to catch the shuttle bus up to the car park and the start of the walk. Unfortunately we were told that the volcano was closed until further notice due to recent fires which had destroyed hectares of land. They were however offering a short trip (at a reduced price) that would take us 6 km short of the main car park but with panoramic views. Needless to say we were very disappointed! We were also annoyed because nothing was mentioned online about the closure.
Standing in the shadows of Mount Vesuvius we can only imagine what it would have been like when the volcano erupted - the forest floor comprised of solid volcanic rocks of all shapes and sizes and likely to have come from deep within the volcanoes core, thrown out at great velocity. The dust and heat would have been incomprehensible and those living below really wouldn't have stood a chance.
Admittedly, it wasn't good value for money as the stop was brief, the panoramic views were poor (a possible misunderstanding of the word 'panoramic') but it did give us a view over the bay and down to the towns below.
view of the Bay of Naples
Next, the roman site at Herculaneum.