So have you ever climbed to the top of a volcano? An odd question and one I would have had to say no to up until a couple of weeks ago. That was until I climbed to the top of Mt Vesuvius. Mr ESLT and I were staying in Sorrento (check out our hotel here) and decided that climbing to the top of an active volcano would be a great experience. The trip we booked was via Acampora Travel and cost £39.50 per person including a morning in Pompeii with a guide. Mt Vesuvius is located just over 22km from Naples and 49km (this is a toll road) from Sorrento and can be seen from all around the area. In fact the ‘humpbacked’ volcano dominates the view from Sorrento. So when the day came for me to visit I was very excited.
Mt Vesuvius is a volcano that I’m sure most people have heard of because of its massive eruption in 79AD when the ash and pumice from it covered Pompeii. Unfortunately, the exact number of deaths in the city is not known however it did run into the thousands (estimated to be around 16,000). Therefore it seems that Mt Vesuvius isn’t famous per se but more infamous because of this. It’s now considered to be one of, if not, the most dangerous volcanos in the world because of the infrastructure around it including the 3,000,000 people living within its vicinity and the fact that it is the only volcano on the European mainland that has erupted within the last hundred years. In fact it is a very active volcano and has erupted a number of times.
So to get to the car park on Mt Vesuvius you have to be at least a semi professional Formula 1 driver. The twists and turns on the narrow road up there had me holding my breath, closing my eyes and breathing in. Luckily we were on a bus with a very experienced and confident driver who had obviously navigated this road many times. If you are planning on driving there yourself take it slow and steady and listen out for the horns of oncoming traffic especially on the blind corners. It is also carnage when you get to the car park as spaces are limited and coaches are not allowed to stay there so if you do decide to drive yourself you probably need to be a patient person unlike a lot of people who were parked there (and stuck there for a considerable time) that day.
There is of course an entrance fee to get on the volcano of €10 per person (adult) payable on arrival. As soon as we had paid the entrance fee and walked on to the path to the summit we were offered a walking stick to help us on the hike. We were told that there was no fee for the stick however we should pay a tip when we returned it. We decided that we did not need the walking aid and politely declined the offer. We had been told that the walk to the top would take between 20 and 40 minutes dependant on fitness level. Now I’m not making excuses but I had a full-blown cold and was struggling to breathe on flat ground let alone when climbing up a volcano. So I’ll be honest I struggled. It was quite embarrassing having 70 odd year olds passing me at a pace as I clung to the side gasping for air. So needless to say it took me the full 40 minutes to get to the summit. In reality this is not a strenuous climb so if you are of regular fitness or above please do not be put of by my tale of woe and on a normal day (cold free) I would have climbed this bad boy a lot quicker I’m sure (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).
It was quite misty/foggy the day we did the climb so the views out over the towns below weren’t that great but still impressive. However, the most impressive thing and the main event that made the climb worthwhile was being able to see into the crater. Now this may be Mr ESLT’s sceptical nature or he may have a point but there is a part in the crater that is actually smoking and he questioned whether this was staged to make people think that she could blow at any second(?). The crater is about 650 metres and you can walk most of the way round it, there are a couple of shops at the top which sell the usual souvenirs and refreshments. Now as the saying goes ‘what goes up must come down’ and that’s what we had to do to. Luckily for me the walk down was a lot easier than the torture of going up however both Mr ESLT and I both commented it is pretty hard going on your knees. Without timing ourselves I’d estimate it took us between 15 and 20 minutes to get back down to the car park.
The path up to the top is gravel so don’t forget to wear sensible shoes, perhaps not brand new, bright white converse which quickly became a dirty grey colour. Also remember a bottle of water, sun screen and a hat to protect you from the hot Italian sun on summer days. Even though the ascent was quite difficult because of my cold I’m so glad that I still did it and had chance to experience the views of both the towns below and inside the crater. The only way of reaching the summit is by foot so if you feel that your fitness level is not at least average level then maybe this isn’t for you. It was also a great bit of exercise especially in a country where most food (well my favourite foods) are carb loaded. And let’s just say the pint of Peroni I had when I got back to the hotel was very well deserved and I can now, without hesitation say that yes I have climbed to the top of a volcano.