It’s almost impossible for you to not learn about the history of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii in Italy when you were at least in middle school. Such a huge history in the world, so huge that the story had been passed down by people for over 2,000 years, including the archaeological discoveries by experts.
The ancient city of Pompeii — famously ruined in A.D. 79 when mighty Mount Vesuvius blew its top — is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions. Checking out Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii had been high on my list since I learned about it back in high school, if I remember correctly. Not only that, visiting the attractions with my 72-year-old grandpa who had a lifetime dream of visiting Italy was also a bonus for me.
Besides, History was my first major in college because I wanted to because a history teacher, but life was surely fruitful for me, so I ended up changing my major few times before I fell in love with New Media Marketing. Hence this travel blog.
Anyways, the point here is that I love history, and the thought of uncovering temples and tombs in jungles like Indiana Jones excites me. Therefore, I wouldn’t miss out on this for the world when I was in Naples.
There were four of us: Grandma, two Deaf Italian locals (friends of mine as well), and myself. I couldn’t be any luckier to have my Deaf Italian friends drive Grandpa and me to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii because the best way to get there is by driving a rental car, taking a taxi, or joining a group tour guide. Grandpa and I didn’t want to take tours or whatnot because of time and we didn’t want to be stuck with their schedule. We wanted to spend time the way we want to, especially that we wouldn’t know when would there be a next time for either Grandpa or I to come back once again.
Good thing we did because we were blown away by how huge the volcano was and the ruins of Pompeii. We didn’t expect that it would take longer than we had planned to.
The four of us braved about a mile of hiking and it was so hard!
Nah, just messing with you!
It wasn’t a long or particularly hard hike for all of us. The hike was quite steep in the beginning and then became more gradual toward the top as the pathway goes about 3/4 of the way around the crater rim. The trail surface was mostly wide and covered with pumice/ash.
Up at the crater, it wasn’t much, but huge and it had a little steam. I didn’t see any lava as well. But the thought of the fact that Mount Vesuvius had been the volcano responsible for erupting lava covering the city of Pompeii and killing about 10,000-25,000 residents with a blanket of ash like a heavy snow on Pompeii 2,000 years ago fascinated me.
I could tell Grandpa was in awe of the volcano as much as I was. All he did was wander and contemplate over the scenery of the crater and the Bay of Naples from the edge of the crater rim was quite remarkable.
Here are some facts that I learned about the 4,200-foot Mount Vesuvius, the icon of Naples, Italy:
- The devastation wrought by the volcano of 79 AD on Pompeii and Herculaneum was not an isolated incident.
- People died painlessly because they were put to sleep the instant they breathed the poisonous gases in a surge cloud while the eruptions swept down the city of Pompeii with lava.
- Among the 100 eruptions since 79 AD were those in 1631, killing 6,000, and in 1794, 1908, and the 1920’s.
- The last eruption was during World War II in 1944, when lava devastated the town of San Sebastian and others within two miles of the volcano. A plume of ash rose 4,000 feet in the air.
- Naples, with 3,000,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area, sits 5.6 miles from Vesuvius. There is one major highway in and out.
- It had been estimated the caldarium of poisonous gases that swept through Pompeii travelled at 30-40 mph. Lava, heated to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, moved three feet a minute in 1944. Too hot and fast to believe, huh?
- Psst… Scientists warned that Vesuvius would be no less dangerous today, and had been merely napping. The Osservatorio Vesuviano (institute) would monitor all activity.
Besides all that, there had been almost 2,500,000 visitors a year who would trek up to the rim of the crater. Couldn’t be any prouder to be one of them and be a part of history by walking on a piece of history. Nonetheless, be sure to expect this attraction to be packed with tourists.
Photographs of Mount Vesuvius
The City of Pompeii
After our Mount Vesuvius hike, we headed to Pompeii to explore the city that the Mountain buried with over 22 feet of earth and ash.
I had been to Rome few days before going to Naples and I saw the Roman Forum. Thus, I was expecting a similar sight, but I was entirely wrong when I first laid my eyes on the city of Pompeii. It had the ruins of an entire commercial city. So far, archaeologists had excavated 70% of the city, which meant there would be still more to uncover.
So huge, I actually underestimated the size of the city because the four of us had plans afterwards and we assumed that we could skim and finish the city within two hours. It actually took over 4 hours even though we took our time to skim as quick as we could. There were hundreds of buildings to see and wander through in Pompeii. Pretty much, I barely scratched the surface of Pompeii.
One part of the entire tour, four of us actually got lost a bit while looking for the gallery that had decomposed bodies filled in plaster capturing their anguished last moments. This gallery really gave me the chills. I’m telling you. This is one of things that you have to see when you’re visiting Pompeii. However, if you don’t handle well seeing dead bodies, you don’t have to force yourself. The entire city would still give you the chills one way or another.
You can’t miss out on this if you’re in the area!
Still not convinced? I’ll let the photos do the talking. 😉