"A hellish peak towering over the middle of paradise, horror next to beauty," is how German Romantic era poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote about Vesuvius. These words still seem relevant today, as it is the only active volcano located on the European continent. It is also ranked among the five most dangerous volcanoes in the world! The fact that its crater can spill hectoliters of hot lava at any moment does not deter either the residents of the surrounding cities, headed by Naples, or tourists dreaming of hiking to the top.
Currently, the volcano lies within a protected area, which is a Parco Nationale del Vesuvio. The purpose of creating the park was to protect the unique geological formations (cavities of solidified lava), rare species of plants (wild orchids, barberry janitor) and animals (geckos, green lizards) that live around Vesuvius.
Where does Vesuvius lie?
Vesuvius is located in the territory of the Italian Republic, in the region of Campania, on the Gulf of Naples. In ancient times, cities developed in the shadow of the great volcanic mountain: Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were buried during the great eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.
The nearest large contemporary city is the Naples and it is the one you need to reach from Poland to make the trek to the top of the volcano.
How to get from Naples to Vesuvius?
By public transport
From Naples you can get to the foot of Vesuvius by public transportation. The first destination will be the village of Ercolano Scavi. There is a commuter train from Naples to Ercolano Scavi Circumvesuviana. There are two options for leaving Naples. The first is to start the train from Napoli Centrale at Piazza Garibaldi, and the second is to start from Napoli Circumvesuviana at Porta Nolana on Corso Giuseppe Garibaldi. The drive from downtown Naples to Ercolano Scavi takes about 25 minutes. It takes another 20 minutes to get from Ercolano by bus or private bus to the entrance gate of the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio national park, where the hiking trail to the top of the volcanic mountain takes off.
The public bus runs from Ercolado Scavi only 2 - 3 times a day on a fixed schedule, which means that waiting to use its services can consume a lot of time, and there is no guarantee that you will catch the last bus of the day after descending from Vesuvius. So it seems safer to choose a private bus (its office is located in Ercolado Scavi in the square, to the left of the exit from the Circumvesuviana train station). The driver leaves tourists at the entrance to the Parco Nacionale del Vesuvio, giving them a few hours to ascend and descend to the summit.
If you intend to reach Vesuvius by your own car, it is worth knowing that the desire to park at the entrance to the territory of the park requires prior notification to the municipality of Herculaneum. This can be done through the website: Parkingsuvio.
The current price list for Circumvesuviana commuter train tickets and other information about the train's operation can be found on the websites of local tourist organizations:
There is a fee to enter the Parco Nacionale del Vesuvio. A ticket for an adult costs 10 euros, a discounted ticket costs 8 euros (the discount applies to all persons under 25 years of age provided they show proof of age). The ticket office is located directly at the entrance to the park. It is worth downloading the Vesuvius National Park app. Through it, you can also buy tickets and get all the information on hiking routes around the volcano.
Visiting the Vesuvius volcano
The national park has created 11 nature trails with a total length of 54 kilometers. The most popular trail, which allows you to look deep into the crater of Vesuvius, is route number 5 Gran Cono. Its starting point is the Piazzale di Quota 1000 parking lot, located at the end of the Strada Provinciale (provincial road) Ercolano-Vesuvio. The hike from the parking lot to the top of the volcano takes about 30 minutes. The route is not particularly demanding in terms of fitness. The uphill climb is on slopes with a slight incline, and is not steep. Difficulty can be caused by the ground - you hike on sliding volcanic dust, which resembles sand and slides underfoot. The slopes of the mountain are devoid of trees, guaranteeing magnificent views of the entire Bay of Naples, the Sorrento Peninsula and, of course, Naples in its full glory. When you reach the top, you will see several souvenir stores and benches. From the top, you can look deep into the crater, from which billowing clouds of steam and the distinctive smell of sulfur rise. The liquid magma is not visible, nor is it possible to walk around the entire crater, but part of the rim of the crest is accessible. The feeling of stepping onto an active volcano is priceless. It takes no more than 15 - 20 minutes to return to the parking lot.
Let's remember to dress
When going to the summit, keep in mind that the top of the volcano is 1281 meters above sea level and the temperature there can be much lower than in Naples. So it's worth taking long-legged pants, a warm sweatshirt and a jacket with you. Don't forget headgear and comfortable shoes (trekking shoes are ideal, although sneakers will also do the job). It is not advisable to climb in sandals or other delicate footwear, as many parts of the route lead over black volcanic dust, with splashes of small pebbles. Trekking poles may also prove useful during the hike.
If you're going to visit Vesuvius and don't have accommodation yet, it's worth checking out the cheapest deals on bookings. Below is a map with accommodations in Naples: