The task this morning is to climb Vesuvius, not from the bottom thank goodness but from the car park which is about 500 metres below the true summit.
Toilets in Italy are a variable matter and our Tour Manager Belinda seems to know the location and quality of every toilet in the area and so we stop off at a service station on the Autostrada on our way to Vesuvius to make use of the facilities. This also gives us a view of the volcano.
Looking at the photo above, the volcano car park is on the left hand side of the volcano somewhat below the flattish bit of the rim. You then walk up to and around the rim and if you hire a guide (around 75 euro per group), you can go up to the highest part of the rim.
Just below the summit is a long thin car park with a cafe and a certain amount of chaos. There used to be a cable car to the summit (well known through the song Funiculì, funiculà), but this fell out of use in 1944 after an eruption.
A booth sells tickets to proceed further for 8 euro (2011) and a
rather nice range of tacky souvenirs are available as you go through the entrance.
On the right as you walk up is a view of the 1944 lava flow (the last serious eruption).
The path wends it way uphill and is a very easy walk in normal shoes.
Although there is a view of Naples (as you go up) and Pompeii when you have got to the top, it is usually very hazy and good views are unlikely.
We picked up a tour guide to take us to the very top at the Guide Service Office but immediately I started to doubt his word because he seemed very evasive and kept saying it might or might not be possible to get to the top that day. However, not being an Italian speaker, I kept quiet and we went on.
He explained the shape of the volcano with a picture drawn on the path – essentially the left hand side blew off at some stage.
The crater is of a typical shape with not a lot happening at the moment (thank goodness). The picture above has the lower part of the rim on the right and the high part of the rim (refer to the picture at the top of this blog) over the rest of the picture. If you proceed to the top, you just walk further and go up onto the high part of the rim (sensible shoes essential).
Fumaroles are everywhere but you can only get to them by climbing over the fence (as our “guide” and we did).
After about 1 km, you get to a second office at 1167m above sea level and here general access stops. At this point our “guide” decided he could not go further (we suspect because he was receiving lots of interesting offers from people we had passed on the way up) – so we never got to the highest point on Vesuvius!
If you want to monitor Vesuvius activity from afar, click here which takes you to the volcano monitoring site and also where there is more information about the volcano.