When you’re in Naples, this is just a part of the itinerary, something every tourist here is expected to do. But when you think about it, it just blows your mind – you’re walking up a volcano. Sure it’s dormant, well, as of now. But dormant means it’s still active somewhere below; a sleeping giant just lying low, quietly simmering and may just decide to awaken anytime.
As images of erupting volcanoes go, thanks to Hollywood movies, nothing could look more different than this – calm and
peaceful, with a surprisingly huge number of people living at the base and around it in beautiful town houses and villas, like a regular hill station. As mountains go, this one is barely a bump on earth, a little under 1200m (at least 25 eruptions since 79AD bringing down its height each time.)
A disappointingly well laid out winding walking trail (one would expect a breath-stopping arduous climb), complete with hand rails and kiosk shops selling trinkets and munchies (can it get more placid?) takes you up to the rim.
Despite the lack of drama, the climb is not exactly easy; the path is fairly steep and takes about an hour of deep breathing, slow climbing, and gets quite damp and chillingly cold as you go up. But the sight from the top on a clear day is an awe-inspiring crater of immense proportions. The belly of the volcano holds no brimstone and spewing fires, at least none that’s plain to see; the smell of sulphur is faintly perceptible.
Yet, this languid and picturesque volcano is one of the most dangerous ones on earth. The first time it blew to a height of 33 kms, it virtually buried the town of Pompeii, about 6 kms away, under about 20 feet of ash. The horror of its enormity is seen in the amazingly preserved town, excavated centuries later. The entire town, including some of its citizens, caught completely unawares, the bodies preserved intact in plaster casts still eerily remain the way they were.
This is no means a very unique experience. If you are a globe trekker, there are at least a dozen active volcanoes, some having erupted within the last few years that one can climb. But this, by no means diminishes the beauty of the experience of climbing the Vesuvius.
Naples is one of the most beautiful regions of Italy and is one place that you can combine a number of other exciting experiences. Stay tuned for more.
This trip was originally published on 'open roads'.