Climbing Mount Vesuvius was one of the most exciting trips I have ever been on. I say “climbing” like I am some kind of expert mountaineer. I’m not. And truth be told, we got most of the way up in specialised vehicles, adapted for the steep and rocky ascent.
We found that the easiest way to do the Mount Vesuvius trip was to get the train to Pompeii and take one of the excursions from there. As soon as you exit the Circumvesuviana station at Pompei Scavi you will see a lot of people advertising the trip. If you buy your tickets from the people at the booth they will direct you to a bus stop and tell you when the next trip begins. It seemed when we were there that the trips ran every hour, and we were a bit too early so we went for a drink in one of the many restaurants that they had lining the road.
Mount Vesuvius is 1281 m high, so you can get good views of it from all around the Naples area. Even when you are flying in, the volcano is one of the first things you see on the descent, it completely dominates the view. Although, the views of it around the coast are absolutely spectacular, nothing prepared me for the breathtaking views that you get once at the top!
Reaching the top is a three part journey – bus, army truck and walking. And it is incredibly good value for money, the experience of being up one of Italy’s biggest killers is priceless in my opinion. The bus picks you up from the Circumvesuviana station and drives you through the local area, taking you straight to the gates of Vesuvius National Park. The bus ride isn’t too long, but there aren’t many seats on it, so be prepared to stand. If you are nosey – like me – then you will enjoy this part of the journey, taking in some more untouched, less touristy areas of Italy.
Once you reach the National Park entrance you will get off the bus and jump on a specialist army vehicle. These have had the interiors completely ripped out and replaced with normal coach seats. My best advice whilst riding in these trucks is to wear your seat belt, it is such a bumpy journey! It goes without saying, that this can be a bit of a daunting experience. The roads are a quite narrow and there are a lot of places where you are literally just staring down the edge of the mountain, but once you get over the initial shock and panic (like I did) it is truly wonderful.
The trucks will drop you about a half an hour walk away from the crater (depending on how quickly you walk!) The company told us that we had 1 hour and 45 minutes to walk up and back to get the truck back down. It was very well organised, I have to say it took us about 45 minutes to get up there, as we stopped occasionally to take photos. But I would say that this is plenty of time. There are two small shops at the top, and they sold some lovely pieces related to Mount Vesuvius.
Don’t go up to Mount Vesuvius if you are expecting to see a deep, dark crater with bubbling lava in the bottom, as you won’t be greeted with this. As the volcano has not erupted since March 1944, it has now sealed over with rock. This doesn’t make it any less dangerous though, it is currently mainland Europe’s only active volcano. Don’t be alarmed though, as equipment has advanced greatly since the 1940’s, they are able to detect an eruption 1 week before it’s due, so you will be entirely safe.
I really loved this experience. It is definitely one to brag about when telling stories of your holiday when you’re home. I would totally recommend it!