Vesuvius dominates the Gulf of Naples with its 1281 meters, and it is an icon of rare beauty for the gulf.
Its mild climate and proximity to the city of Naples made it quickly become one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. There are about 400,000 hikers who visit it on an annual basis, about 70% of whom are foreigners.
The fame of Vesuvius derives primarily from its eruption in 79 AD which put the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum into the history books. Both cities being destroyed and simultaneously immortalised by lava, ash and lapilli.
Why is Vesuvius the most dangerous volcano in the world?
Vesuvius is one of the largest volcanoes in continental Europe.
Its danger is measured not only according to volcanic activity, but also according to its exposure. That is, how many people are actually located in the immediate area affected by such phenomenon.
Considering the large number of people living in the surrounding area (three million) Vesuvius is the most dangerous volcano in the world, although it is not the world’s most explosive one. For this reason, considering the high number of victims that it could cause, Vesuvius is constantly monitored by a hundred stations ready to pick up any warning signs of an imminent eruption.
How was Vesuvius formed?
Vesuvius is a so-called stratovolcano. That is a volcano inside of another volcano (picture a Russian doll to get a clearer idea). On its exterior there is Monte Somma, what remains of the original volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD .
Monte Somma has witnessed several explosive eruptions over the centuries and has formed a huge caldera (a large cauldron-like volcanic depression), called Somma Caldera. Vesuvius is a cone created later inside this caldera following the eruption in 79 AD. Observing the volcano from above you can see that within the caldera of Mount Somma is that cone (Vesuvius). These are two morphologically distinct but related structures and have the same magma chamber. Estimates today state that this magma chamber should be approximately 8 km underground, having an extension of about 400 km2. It is precisely all this lava that worries experts and volcanologists, because there was probably the same amount before the eruption in 79 AD; scholars are therefore confident that the next eruption will be violent (Plinian).
Where is Mount Vesuvius?
The easiest way to reach the top of the volcano is by a road that begins close to the Herculaneum motorway exit, on the A3. This road, 12 km long, climbs through the orchards and vineyards that produce the famous “Lacryma Christi” wine. As you climb, you can admire the magnificent views of the Gulf of Naples and the Sorrento Peninsula. Ten lava stone sculptures created by international artists have been positioned along the road as a part of the permanent exhibition Creator Vesevo. Most notably, there is the sculpture “The Eyes of Vesuvius “ by the Neapolitan master Lello Esposito.
At 6.5 Km, there is the old Vesuvius Observatory (609 m), built in 1845 by Ferdinand II of Bourbon, from whose square you get a view of the dense urban population below, and the impending flank of the volcano. Back on the road, going up through the lava from the most recent eruptions, you reach some crossroads: turn left to reach the 12 km point, at 1017 metres above sea level (wide esplanade with superb view). From here you can walk up (in 20 minutes) to the crater, about 200 metres deep and with a maximum diameter of 600 metres.
Panorama: the immense panorama over the entire coast leaves observers in awe for its immeasurable beauty. On days with good visibility you can admire the Gulf of Naples, Capri and Procida.