Who hasn’t heard about the history of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. Today it’s one the most famous Roman sites in the world, but back in the days Pompeii was just another Roman seaside resort until Mount Vesuvius erupted. Just a day later, thousands of people were killed and the whole city was buried under a blanket of volcanic ash 25 meters deep, forgotten until it was unearthed by explorers 1800 years later. The volcano definitely has had an impact on the city and the locals’ day-to-day way of life, along with the history and folklore of the culture. So when we were in Naples, we decided to make a trip to both these sites.
We started the day with hike to Mount Vesuvius. Vesuvius is among the most well-known volcanoes in the world and easily accessible. It dominates the background of any view of the Bay of Naples, lording over the landscape like a sleeping giant. It is an easy hike with well laid path to the top. The 2 hour hike up and back is on a gravely terrain. There were railings along the side and scenic spots to stand along the edge of the path to rest for a minute and soak in the spectacular views of the Bay of Naples. Vesuvius will help you understand why this mountain was long considered a place of gods and monsters . Just 6 miles of Naples, the hike to crater is quite worth it. But yes don’t expect to see lava or fumes coming out of the crater. Yeah that doesn’t happen. I remember 2-3 people asked me if I saw Lava or smoke up at the crater *facepalm*. The volcano is currently dominant and not dead, and it is said that it is due an eruption soon. There are around 3 million people living under it, making the threat of any eruption even more dangerous.
From the destroyer we went ahead to see what was destroyed. Pompeii was buried with over 22 feet of earth and ash by “The Mountain”. The ash which had destroyed all life had preserved its remains in perfect condition and the town of Pompeii essentially became a window on the past, giving unprecedented insights into life in a Roman town. Though everything looked too curated. I don’t know if it was curated or it was left naturally.
Pompeii seemed like an middle class commercial city. Back then, Rome controlled the entire Mediterranean Sea, and Pompeii was an important, big port town. So far, archaeologists had excavated 70% of the city, which meant there would be still more to uncover. We actually underestimated the size of the city because we though we could do it in 2-3 hours but it clearly took long while we had to skim through places. You can still find a main square, market and bank, streets with sidewalks, bakeries with ovens, bath, Pubs, a gambling hall and even a red light district. The ruins will show you how pompous Pompeii was.
Get back to Naples just for pizza at Da Michele. It is worth the hype and the wait. The oldest and best pizzerias in Naples or indeed the world, founded in 1870, Da Michele issues numbered tickets to diners waiting outside the pizzeria to ensure that everyone is served in turn. The only pizzas served here are the marinara and margherita and is out of the world. Legend has it that the margherita pizza was invented in Naples after a visit from a queen of the same name. OH and it still costs €4 for a regular size pizza. Eat it here and Pizza will never be the same again.
How to reach– Pompeii is about 25 km south of Naples. The easiest way to get to the ruins is by taking the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii Scavi – Villa dei Misteri station or drive down to the area. Mt. Vesuvius is in between Pomepii and Naples. You can come with your own, rented car but remember, Naples driving and traffic is the worst in the country. You can get to Vesuvius with a train/bus/hike journey. There is a commuter train from Naples or Sorrento (because it circles under Vesuvius, the train is called the Circumvesuviana). From the Pompeii stop, a shuttle van takes you up the volcano to the end of the road. From there, it’s a steep 30-minute hike to the desolate, lunar-like summit.