Since exploding into history in AD 79, Mount Vesuvius has blown its top more than 30 times. The most devastating of these was in 1631, and the most recent in 1944. What redeems this lofty menace is the spectacular panorama from its crater – a breathtaking overview that takes in the Bay of Naples with sparkling islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida, and the mountains of the Sorrento peninsula. Vesuvius itself is located inside Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio, which offers a dozen of interesting nature walks around the volcano.

The mountain itself was once higher than it currently stands, claiming a single summit rising to about 3000m rather than the 1281m of today. Its violent outburst in AD 79 not only drowned Pompeii and Herculaneum in pumice and pushed the coastline back several kilometers but also destroyed much of the mountain top, creating a huge caldera and two new peaks. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3 million people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive eruptions.

The hike After arriving at the 1000m terrace by car, you begin your walk up the trail to the crater, eventually reaching 1170m. It is 860m long and takes around 30 minutes. The path is relatively easy, well-maintained and doable for anyone who has done any hiking at all (you would only need comfortable walking shoes and some water). It is quite steep in the beginning and becomes more gradual towards the top. Once at the top, you can walk around half of the cone while looking into the crater, seeing the smoke still oozing out, marveling at the rock and lava formation all around and musing on the devastation and power contained within. It is an awe inspiring experience!