Hill: Vesuvius (and its AD79 destruction at Pompeii and Herculaneum)
Dates: 30th April 2016 and 2nd May 2016
Company: Just myself


In advance of holidaying in Italy, I wrote to the Vesuvio National Park requesting permission to ascend to the true summit of Vesuvius. Unfortunately, I did not receive a response. Ascending to the true summit of Vesuvius is apparently forbidden unless you have permission from the National Park.

On arrival in Italy, instead of booking trips via my holiday rep, I decided to make my own arrangements to visit Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum. This would not only work out substantially cheaper but would also provide me with as much time as I wanted to look around the ruins and see what I wanted to see.

To ascend Vesuvius, I caught the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento to Ercolano. I then went into the Vesuvio Express office to book transport up and down the mountain (Cost 20 Euros, which includes 10 Euro park entry fee).

I had considered ascending Vesuvius on foot from Ercolano, however the road ascending Vesuvius is narrow with no pavements and there are lots of buses going up and down the mountain. Ascending off-road is not permitted - National Park no trespassing signs.

On parking three-quarters of the way up the mountain, Vesuvio Express allowed 1Hr 45Mins to walk up to the crater rim from the car park, have a look around and then get back down to the minibus. It was suggested that it would take 40 minutes to ascend to the crater rim. I set off at a good pace and despite taking numerous photos, still managed to get to the crater rim within twenty minutes.

Initial ascent of Vesuvius from car/bus park:


The walk up to the crater rim is via a wide dirt track.

First views down towards Naples:


Ascent of Vesuvius:


As I gained height, the views got better and better. The weather was improving during my ascent.

Looking back towards Naples:


Ascent of Vesuvius:


Looking back during ascent:


View towards Naples:


The views towards Naples, down to Ercolano and along the peninsula towards Sorrento are excellent. It is worth ascending Vesuvius in good weather.

Nice view back towards Naples in improving conditions:


On arriving at the crater rim, I immediately asked a park warden if I could ascend to the summit and was advised, "No".

First view of the crater rim:


Looking into the crater:


On the crater rim track:


I was a bit miffed to look up and see a sizeable group heading towards the summit. These may have been vulcanologists?

Group heading towards the actual summit:


Cracking views from the crater rim:


Crater rim:


Looking into the crater:


On reaching the far end of the crater rim I again asked another park warden if I could ascend to the summit and was advised, "No".

Looking across towards the summit:


Looking into the crater during walk back:


On returning back to the near end of the crater rim, not liking "No" for an answer, I tried sneaking up to get to the summit. I was however seen, shouted at to get down and told off.

Attempting to sneak up towards the actual summit:


Vesuvius crater rim panorama:


While it was disappointing not to get to the actual summit and disappointing that the National Park ignored my request to ascend to the summit, it is absolutely still worth going up and walking along the crater rim.

Vesuvius is an active volcano with steam regularly coming out of small vents. It is apparently one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world, as when it goes off it tends to explode rather than spurt or spew lava. An eruption is potentially overdue as it has not erupted since 1944. It is however the eruption of AD79 for which Vesuvius is most renowned i.e. the eruption which engulfed Pompeii and Herculaneum.

One cannot go to Sorrento and not visit nearby Pompeii. To get to Pompeii, I caught the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii Scavi. I spent a few hours walking around the ruins at Pompeii.

Pompeii ruins:


At first I thought "Wow" when I saw a huge bronze sculpture overlooking Pompeii. This sculpture and sevaral others have however been added recently as they are all only 10-20 years old.

Pompeii ruins overseen by modern sculpture:


On seeing Vesuvius from Pompeii, it looks quite a way off. It is obviously not far enough away to escape the pyroclastic flows which engulfed Pompeii in AD79.

Pompeii ruins with Vesuvius in background:


Pompeii ruins:


While walking round Pompeii, I saw only three bodies covered in lava on display within glass cases. A child, a dog and a man.

Child caught in pyroclastic flow:


Dog caught in pyroclastic flow:


Pompeii ruins:


Pompeii ruins:


Pompeii ruins:


Pompeii ruins:


There are however many areas closed-off to the public. On peering through a hole in some canvas covering the entrance to a building, I could see numerous more bodies which had been caught in lava.

Man caught in pyroclastic flow:


Pompeii:


Pompeii ruins with Vesuvius in background:


It was nice to see inside some of the dwellings and interesting to see some of the wonderful decor.

Pompeii dwelling:


Pompeii dwelling:


Decor inside Pompeii dwelling:


Painting inside Pompeii dwelling:


Pompeii ruins with colourful poppies:


I didn't particularly like the modern sculptures mixed in with the old ruins.

Modern sculpture amongst ancient ruins:


Modern sculpture amongst ancient ruins:


While walking round the streets of Pompeii, I managed to trip on the cobble paving, landing on my front, banging my camera off the ground (buckled UV filter only) and taking the skin off my knees. I can climb hills no problem, but pavements are dangerous!!!

Vesuvius and Pompeii ruins:


Vesuvius from Pompeii:


I also took the opportunity to visit Herculaneum which isn't as reknowned as Pompeii but is arguably as good if not better.

While Pompeii is a town spread over a significant area, Herculaneum is much more compact and geometrical with lots of parallel streets. It is much easier to look around and see most of what there is to see.

Looking down on Herculaneum ruins:


Walking the streets of Herculaneum:


I went up and down every street trying to see all the ruins and decor.

Herculaneum ruins:


Herculaneum ruins:


Herculaneum ruins:


Herculaneum ruins:


As with Pompeii, the decor inside the buildings is often well preserved.

Decor inside a Herculaneum dwelling:


Decor inside a Herculaneum dwelling:


Decor on an archway:


Decor inside a Herculaneum dwelling:


Decor inside a Herculaneum dwelling:


The buildings with the most impressive features have wardens ensuring visitors do no damage.

Mosaic floor:


Mosaic floor:


Large bath:


Mosaic floors:


Water fountain:


Great artwork:


Sculptures:


Towards the end of the walk round Herculaneum there is a sight that totally moved me. Seeing a few bodies engulfed in lava at Pompeii was nothing compared with seeing several dozen skeletons of people caught in lava.

Herculaneum residents caught in lava:


Herculaneum residents caught in lava:


Herculaneum residents caught in lava:


The skeletal remains above reminded me of scenes from a Terminator movie. Very sad.

Definitely worth ascending Vesuvius and seeing the ruins at Pompeii and Herculaneum if ever holidaying in the Sorrento area of Italy.