A large pro­tected area de­signed to safe­guard the area of the most important ac­tive vol­cano in Europe: na­ture trails, scenic land­scapes and enogas­tro­nomic spe­cial­i­ties

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - CONTENTS - Ente Parco Nazionale del Ve­su­vio Palazzo Mediceo. Via Palazzo del Principe, Ot­ta­viano, Naples. T: 0818653911 www.par­conazionaledelvesu­

Na­ture trails, scenic land­scapes and enogas­tro­nomic spe­cial­i­ties of the pro­tected area

Its tragic his­tory and the dra­matic tes­ti­monies handed down to us in the form of relics and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tions have made Vesuvius one of the most fa­mous vol­ca­noes in the world. This ma­jes­tic moun­tain which dom­i­nates the Bay of Naples, al­most seem­ing to en­cir­cle it in an em­brace, is now safe­guarded by the Na­tional Park of Vesuvius which pro­tects the en­vi­ron­ment, pro­motes en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties and sci­en­tific research and in­vites trav­el­ers to dis­cover an area that is home to pic­turesque towns, mag­nif­i­cent land­scapes and agri­cul­tural of­fer­ings that are unique in terms of their va­ri­ety and unique flavours. The Na­tional Park of Vesuvius in­cludes 13 com­munes, all fall­ing un­der the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the prov­ince of Naples, boast­ing a pop­u­la­tion of roughly 380,000 in­hab­i­tants.

The fo­cal point of the Park, as well as its main at­trac­tion, is the vol­cano, the most important ac­tive vol­cano in con­ti­nen­tal Europe. Its ex­ter­nal cone, Monte Somma, now ex­tinct, is semi-cir­cu­lar in shape and reaches a height of 1,132 me­tres above sea level, with Punta Na­sone. it rep­re­sents what re­mains of the old vol­cano, whose ac­tiv­ity dates back to at least 300,000 years ago. On the con­trary, a vast depression known as the Valle

del Gi­gante, is di­vided into Atrio del Cavallo to the west and Valle dell’In­ferno to the east and rep­re­sents the resid­ual in­ner part of the old caldera. The ear­li­est erup­tions, which took place be­tween 25,000 and 17,000 years ago, partly de­stroyed the most an­cient vol­cano, Mt. Somma, within which the Gran Cono of Mt. Vesuvius later formed.

One of the vol­cano’s most sig­nif­i­cant erup­tions oc­curred on 24 Au­gust 79 A.D. This dev­as­tat­ing erup­tion to­tally de­stroyed the three cities of Her­cu­la­neum, Pom­peii and Stabia, bury­ing them un­der a thick layer of ash, lapilli and lava. The for­ma­tion of Vesuvius, in­side Monte Somma, prob­a­bly dates back to this pe­riod. An­other vi­o­lent erup­tion was the one that oc­curred on 16 De­cem­ber 1631. This time, it de­stroyed most of the in­hab­ited cen­tres ly­ing at the foot of the vol­cano, caus­ing the death of some 4,000 vic­tims and lava to flow into the sea. The last erup­tion oc­curred in March 1944, gen­er­at­ing 21 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of lava and de­stroy­ing nu­mer­ous in­hab­ited cen­tres. Ash from the vol­cano was scat­tered far and wide even reach­ing as far as Al­ba­nia. Since that time, the vol­cano has not erupted again even though fre­quent seis­mic waves gen­er­ated by earth­quakes move un­der­neath the vol­cano demon­strat­ing its ac­tive state of qui­es­cence. The vol­canolog­i­cal ob­ser­va­tory of Her­cu­la­neum, lo­cated in­side the Park, is a part of the vol­cano’s his­tory. Es­tab­lished in the 19th cen­tury, it was the first vol­canolog­i­cal ob­ser­va­tory in the world, where the first seis­mic and vol­canolog­i­cal research was car­ried out. One of the high­lights of the park is its flora, char­ac­ter­ized by sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences depend­ing on which side of the vol­cano it grows. The Vesuvius side has a char­ac­ter­is­tic Mediter­ranean-type veg­e­ta­tion: ba­si­cally arid, over the course of the years it has grad­u­ally been re­for­ested to pre­vent land­slides. On the con­trary, the veg­e­ta­tion on the Somma side is damper and more fer­tile. To­day, 610 dif­fer­ent veg­etable species pop­u­late the Park.

It also abounds in a rich va­ri­ety of fauna. While walk­ing along the trails that cross the park you might meet mam­mals such as the rare Wood Mouse, the Stone Marten, the fox, the dor­mouse, wild rab­bits and hares. The Park also boasts more than 100 bird species. Among its am­phib­ians, par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy is the in­cred­i­bly rare Emer­ald Toad. There is also a large com­mu­nity of in­ver­te­brates, in­clud­ing 44 dif­fer­ent species of

multi-coloured but­ter­flies which are es­pe­cially easy to sight when the Park is in bloom. The Park of­fers vis­i­tors 54km of walks, di­vided into 9 trails, each sign­posted with in­for­ma­tion on the na­ture, ge­ol­ogy and his­tory of the trail thus mak­ing them ac­ces­si­ble to those who wish to ex­plore the trea­sures of the Park in to­tal safety. In the vicin­ity of the Vesuvius Ob­ser­va­tory, at an al­ti­tude of be­tween 800 and 850 me­tres above sea level, you will find the Atrio del Cavallo, a large nat­u­ral am­phithe­atre that owes its name to the horses and don­keys that were teth­ered here by tourists head­ing up to the craters. On the con­trary, the Valle del Gi­gante is a vol­canic depression mea­sur­ing ap­prox­i­mately 5km in length which sep­a­rates the steep slopes of Monte Somma from those of the Gran Cono, in­clud­ing the Atrio del Cavallo and the Valle dell’in­ferno. Its sandy bot­tom is con­ducive to the growth of lichen, Etna broom, black lo­cust and birch trees. One of the most evoca­tive and iso­lated ar­eas of the Park is the Valle dell’In­ferno. Along the paths that are ac­ces­si­ble to tourists it is not unusual to find fu­maroles whose gas emis­sions of­ten reach tem­per­a­tures of around 80° C (there is even one that has a fu­ma­role tem­per­a­ture of 500°C). Land­mark sights in­side the Park in­clude the cities of Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum. Pom­peii is one of the best-known ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, of ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­est be­cause it of­fers vis­i­tors in­sight into the places and life­styles of those who in­hab­ited the city two thou­sand years ago. Al­ter­nately, the eas­i­est route to reach the Ob­ser­va­tory and the crater of Vesuvius starts from Her­cu­la­neum. Its ex­ca­va­tions, which are smaller than those of Pom­peii, are, how­ever, bet­ter pre­served. At the foot of the north­ern side of the vol­cano, Somma Ve­su­viana boasts an in­ter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal cen­tre. Make sure to visit the me­dieval quar­ter of Casamale, the ru­ins of the cas­tle and the Mu­seum of peas­ant life, boast­ing 32,000 ob­jects of daily life orig­i­nat­ing from all over Cam­pa­nia. For years, Ot­ta­viano, a densely pop­u­lated agri­cul­tural cen­tre at the foot of Monte Somma, was a play­ground for hol­i­day­mak­ers: the city, dam­aged sev­eral times by erup­tions, is dom­i­nated by an im­pos­ing cas­tle where Gabriele D’An­nun­zio resided.

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