Into The Mouth of a Volcano

Mount Vesuvius forms an awesome backdrop to the Bay of Naples in Italy. Rising 1281 metres (4203 ft) above the bay area, the mountain dominates the landscape and is a breath taking but somewhat sinister sight because this mountain is an active volcano overshadowing a densely populated region and the implications of another dramatic eruption are all too clear. Vesuvius is best known for the AD79 eruption which buried the city of Pompeii under a mountain of ash and pumice deposited by an enormous pyroclastic flow. Vesuvius has erupted many times since without such drastic consequences but it is only a matter of time before another catastrophe blights the region. The question is how much time?


Visiting Vesuvius

In order to get a real feel for the scale of this iconic mountain it is necessary to see it up close and personal and this is something I had wanted to do since I was a child when I was taken to Pompeii by my parents. I was fascinated by the ruins of the ancient city but could not take my eyes off the mountain beyond. On visiting the region again recently I was determined to scale Vesuvius to explore the mountain and to get a feel of what an active Volcano is really like. I set out on the morning of my trip feeling like I was taking a long awaited pilgrimage and hoped that I would not be disappointed.

Walking the Mountain

I was transported much of the way up Vesuvius by a bus on a twisty road which seemed quite perilous but gave little clue that I was on the side of a volcano. On disembarking I started to get more of a sense of where I was as my feet were quickly engulfed in a fine grey ash which covered the footpath. As I made my way up the trail I started to smell sulphur which was venting from the hillside and I realised that I was standing on the side of a giant pressure cooker which was building inexorably towards its next explosive act. The sulphurous smell got stronger and stronger until finally I arrived at the summit to be greeted by the incredible sight of the crater in all its glory with steam venting in plumes all over the place. This was a mountain which was very much alive!

The Bay

I walked around the edge of the crater and was periodically treated to spectacular views over the Bay. I could see the city of Naples in the distance and the ancient civilisations of Pompeii and Herculaneum beneath me. I was struck by how much more densely populated the bay had become since by last visit and just how many people’s lives could be devastated or lost by a future eruption. Nobody knows when Vesuvius will blow again just that it certainly will. The sulphur vents, cracks in the paths and subsidence on the mountain were stark illustrations of natural forces at work and peering into the ominous crater I was left pondering the awesome power that lay beneath my feet.


I descended Vesuvius feeling euphoric that I had finally scaled the volcano and that the trip had been anything but disappointing. In my pocket was a small piece of volcanic rock which I had harvested as a souvenir and my Air Max One trainers were caked in volcanic ash that I didn’t want to remove. I often think of my day on the mountain and I hope that I can pay Vesuvius another visit before it erupts again and changes the landscape forever.


This must be an interesting

This must be an interesting place to visit. Avoiding those typical  sight seeing while travelling and seeing such an interesting and different place is just amazing.