Located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Mount Vesuvius is one of the volcanoes that makes up the Campanian Volcanic Arc which includes active, dormant and long extinct volcanoes. Famous for the eruption in 79 AD that buried the city of Pompeii, Vesuvius is popular among tourists who scale its peaks to enjoy the incredible views across the Bay of Naples beneath.
Mount Vesuvius is now part of a national park that is scattered with tiny farms and wineries in the midst of stunning Southern Italian scenery. The volcanic soils are extremely fertile and produce some of the region’s finest wines and cherry tomatoes.
Mount Vesuvius National Park is also crisscrossed with hiking trails that take walkers through its unique landscapes. Tourists can follow the trails to experience the flora and fauna of Southern Italy, visit local wineries and taste the fresh produce grown on the volcanic slope’s at small, family run restaurants.
Is Mount Vesuvius Still Active?
Mount Vesuvius is currently classified as active and is the only volcano on mainland Europe to have erupted in the past 100 years. The volcano has erupted many times in the past, the most recent of which was in 1944 when lava flows destroyed several nearby villages including Massa di Somma, Ottaviano and San Giorgio a Cremano.
Consequently, Mount Vesuvius is generally thought to be the most potentially dangerous volcano in Europe. Currently, over 600,000 people live close enough to the volcano to be in serious danger if there was an eruption; and a major event could even wipe out parts of the city of Naples!
However, with modern advances in scientific and geological understandings the Italian government has created an effective early warning detection system as well as evacuation plans that would be able to remove all nearby inhabitants to safety within 72 hours.
Therefore, despite it’s turbulent past, and although Mount Vesuvius is still active, tourists and visitors are in no danger when they visit the carefully monitored volcano.
Visiting Mount Vesuvius.
Anyone visiting the Amalfi Coast or Naples should certainly include a trip to Mount Vesuvius in their itinerary. Visiting Mount Vesuvius makes an ideal day trip for couples, families and solo travelers alike.
While you’re in the area you can also discover the beauties of the national park around the peak as well as visit wineries, restaurants and galleries in the surrounding towns and villages.
Naples is the best place to use as a base from which to visit Mount Vesuvius from. Naples has a well managed travel network so it’s easy to get there from elsewhere in Italy or directly from abroad. You can fly into the Naples Airport (NAP) which is just over 3km from the city and then catch a taxi into the center. Alternatively, you can drive or catch a train to Naples from anywhere in Italy to get to the city.
After arriving in the city you have a huge choice of accommodation to suit every budget. Once you are in Naples it’s a short trip to reach the volcano which is only 10km away.
Catch A Train And Shuttle Bus From Naples.
One of the best ways to reach Mount Vesuvius from Naples is to catch the EAV Circumvesuviana from Napoli Centrale train station. To catch the train to Mount Vesuvius you will need to go to the Napoli Centrale Garibaldi, which is a separate part of the main station.
Your train will be departing on the Blue ‘Sorrento’ line although when you’re buying your ticket you can ask the ticket agent to confirm the platform for you. When buying your ticket you need to ask for the ‘Ercolano Scavi’ stop and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Otherwise, you can check on the screens and look for the train that departs for Sorrento, the final destination on the line – but remember, you need to get off at Ercolano Scavi. The journey to Ercolano only takes 20 minutes and costs around 3 Euros per person.
After disembarking at the Ercolano Scavi train station you need to go to the Vesuvio Express ticket office to buy your shuttle bus ticket. The office is just outside of the main station so you can’t miss it. A shuttle bus ticket costs around 10 Euros per person although you can also buy your entrance ticket to Vesuvius at the same time, in which case it will cost about 20 Euros per person.
Shuttle buses leave every 40 minutes. The first shuttle leaves at 9.40 am and the last departs at 4pm. However, shuttle buses are not always spot on time so you might have to wait a little bit longer than the timetable says!
Take A Guided Tour To Mount Vesuvius.
If you want to leave the details and logistics of getting to and from Vesuvius you can book an organized tour. You can reserve seats on day trips that visit Vesuvius and depart from Naples. You’ll either be picked up by the tour bus at your hotel or meet at a convenient city center location in the morning.
Your day trip will usually include stopping off for lunch and your English speaking guide will explain the history of the sites and show you where all the best photo opportunities are located.
One of the best companies that arranges half and full day tours to Vesuvius is Viator. To browse the various tours you can visit their website to find out more. Half day trips start from around 70 Euros per person while a full day trip to Vesuvius and Pompeii starts at roughly 100 Euros.
Travel By Car To Mount Vesuvius.
If you want the freedom to visit Mount Vesuvius on your own in your own time then taking a car is a great option. It’s easy to reach Vesuvius from Naples, or other nearby locations and the drive will take you through some of the most scenic parts of the province.
As you begin to approach Vesuvius the road becomes quite narrow and winding so you should be extra cautious, especially if you’re new to driving in Italy.
The car park for Mount Vesuvius is located around 1.5km from the entrance ticket office. The car park costs about 5 Euros per visit. The car park has a fairly limited capacity but if you arrive early then you should have no trouble in finding a spot. If you do find that the car park is full then you can park on the side of the road for free, although it’s not as safe as the official car park.
Hiking The Gran Cono Trail.
The main tourist route up to the crater of Vesuvius is fairly easy although you’ll still be rewarded with spectacular views and the opportunity to look into the depths of an active volcano! The route is quite steep and rocky in parts though so you should wear good hiking boots and take a walking pole with you if you want a little extra balance and support.
Basic Stats Of The Ascent To Mount Vesuvius:
- Total Distance Up To The Crater : 4 km.
- Gain In Elevation To The Summit : 175-200 meters.
- Difficulty Level : Relatively Easy.
Once you reach the ticket gates you’ll soon see a stall that sells drinks and snacks on our left. There are also public toilets that you can use before you start the hike up the slope. Most of the route is covered by a gravel path with intermittent rocky steps and inclines.
The most difficult part of the hike is an 800m stretch up to the top of the volcano but if you are reasonably fit you’ll have no problems at all. After a further 20 minutes or so you’ll see a souvenir shop and an office where you can book onto a small guided tour of the rim.
You aren’t actually allowed to walk all the way around the rim of the crater due to safety concerns, however at the very end of the path you’ll see a cafe that sells refreshments beside a viewpoint. From the top of Vesuvius you’ll see amazing views across the stunning Bay of Naples to the right and the crater of the volcano to your left.
The Gran Cono Trail is the most commonly used route by tourists who are hiking up the volcano. It’s easy to scale the slope on this route and there’s convenient toilets, refreshments and mini guided tours of the crater on offer.
In total, the whole hike up and down Mount Vesuvius takes around 90 minutes. This allows you plenty of time to take photos, catch your breath and enjoy the views as well as have a quick refreshment at the top.
When you’re planning a trip to Vesuvius you need to remember that the summer weather in Southern Italy can be extremely hot and sunny so you should bring a hat and plenty of water with you.
Alternate Hiking Routes To Mount Vesuvius.
Mount Vesuvius National Park upgraded its hiking trails between 2001 and 2003, adding 11 new routes for hikers to enjoy. This allows visitors to discover the beauty of other parts of the national park which aren’t usually on the regular tourist’s itinerary.
Il Valle Dell’Inferno.
Starting in the rustic village of Ottaviano, this hiking trail takes you through forests, shrubland and the collapsed remains of Mount Somma. The peak of Mount Somma collapsed following an eruption in the 5th century and the geological formation, known as a ‘caldera’, showcases some of the national park’s best flora and fauna.
The trail through the Valle Dell’Inferno, or the ‘Valley of Hell’, is around 12 km long and takes an average hiker around 7 to 8 hours to complete. The route is circular so you’ll be taken back to the starting point in Ottaviano.
Il Vallone Della Profica.
This lovely route meanders through a little known part of the national park including cultivated fields where the region’s famous cherry tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soils. The trail begins in Via Profica Paliata in San Giuseppe Vesuviano.
The entire route is about 5km long and is rated as a moderately difficult trail that takes approximately 3 hours to complete.
Including some of the most spectacular views in the entire park, the Riserva Tirone hiking trail starts in Ercolano and winds through the Tirone-Alto Vesuvio Forestry Reserve. As you emerge from the forests you’ll reach Vesuvius itself in around 6 hours after 11km of hiking.
Mount Vesuvius National Park.
To find out more about Mount Vesuvius National Park, the hiking trails, conservation projects and its biodiversity you can visit their official website to help plan your trip.
Some of the hiking trails undergo regular maintenance so it’s always worth checking on the park’s website to see if the one you want to visit is currently open.
What Should You Wear To Visit Vesuvius?
If you’re planning to visit Mount Vesuvius by taking the standard Gran Cono route then you don’t need to purchase a full set of hiking gear to complete the route! However, you should wear some good boots to protect your ankles and take a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.
During the summer you’ll need to be prepared to face some pretty scorching temperatures, often well over 30 degrees Celsius! So bring a hat and wear loose fitting clothing. If you visit during the winter then temperatures can get quite cold at the peak of the volcano so, once again, dress appropriately and bring an extra layer in your bag.
Visiting Mount Vesuvius Is A Great Experience.
If you’re planning a trip to Naples or Pompeii then you simply must include Mount Vesuvius in your itinerary! As you climb the hiking trail and look down into the volcano’s active crater you’ll get a real sense of the incredible power of the natural world.
Surrounded by pristine national parklands you can further your explorations of the area by hiking some of the newly installed trails to see the best of Southern Italy’s flora and fauna as well as visit rustic wineries and farms.
You can visit Mount Vesuvius for a full or half day trip. After hiking up the volcano many visitors like to take in the atmosphere and scenery by having dinner in a local restaurant before returning to their hotel in Naples.