A panoramic over­view of a sleep­ing gi­ant

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - Contents -

A jour­ney in dis­cov­ery of the sleep­ing gi­ant

S tand­ing at 1282 me­tres above sea level, over­look­ing the bay and the city of Naples, Ve­su­vius has pro­duced sev­eral of the earth’s largest vol­canic erup­tions. The erup­tion dat­ing back to 79 A. D. is the most fa­mous. Not only did it kill more than 16,000 peo­ple but also de­stroyed Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum. At a dis­tance of almost 2,000 years, to tourists vis­it­ing the re­mains of the dev­as­tated ci­ties, it ap­pears that time has stood still. The fl ows of mud, lava and pumice buried peo­ple, dwellings and ob­jects. Hun­dreds of years later, ar­chae­ol­o­gists ex­ca­vated Pom­peii and found ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one that had been there that day per­fectly pre­served by the vol­cano's ash.

Other vi­o­lent erup­tions oc­curred be­tween 1700 and1900, the last one dat­ing back to 1944.

Ve­su­vius is cur­rently dor­mant. In spite of its de­struc­tive po­ten­tial, the vol­cano con­tin­ues to hold an enor­mous ap­peal for vis­i­tors. As­cend­ing to its crater is an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence, both on ac­count of its breathtaking view over the Gulf of Naples and the nat­u­ral beau­ties en­coun­tered along the way. Vis­i­tors can choose from a num­ber of itin­er­ar­ies, from the short­est one, last­ing about one hour, to more stren­u­ous ones, rec­om­mended for ex­pe­ri­enced hik­ers only. The area is dis­tin­guished by its lush fl ora and fauna, en­veloped in a land­scape be­set by an almost re­li­gious si­lence for fear of wak­ing the sleep­ing gi­ant, which forms an ever- present back­drop to the life of Neapoli­tans who have learnt to co- ex­ist with the capri­cious whims of na­ture. Rather than be­ing over­come by fear, de­spite its deadly po­ten­tial, they tend to ex­ploit the best that it has to off er. Proof of this is given by the work­shops of Torre del Greco known not only for the work­ing of co­ral but also for that of the hard, dark lava stone from Ve­su­vius. The foot of the con vol­cano is dot­ted with nu­mer­ous small, closely packed towns each known for their own specifi c pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties, from co­ral to pasta. Ente Parco Nazionale del Ve­su­vio. Pi­azza Mu­nici­pio 8, San Se­bas­tiano al Ve­su­vio. T: 0817710911 www. par­conazionaledelvesu­vio. it A se­ries of mag­nifi cent vil­las en­rich the stretch from Por­tici to Torre An­nun­zi­ata, the so- called ‘ Golden Mile’ where, in the 18th cen­tury, the Neapoli­tan aris­toc­racy built their homes, in or­der not to be out­done by Charles, one of the great­est Bour­bon kings who had a mag­nifi cent palace con­structed for him­self in Por­tici. Over the past few years, although 121 of th­ese vil­las have been ren­o­vated, not all of them are open to pub­lic view­ing. In sum­mer, the most beau­ti­ful host con­certs and cul­tural events or­ga­nized by Ente Ville Ve­su­viane ( T: 081404089), in­clud­ing the Fes­ti­val delle Ville Ve­su­viane, an in­ter­na­tional the­atre event held at Villa Cam­poli­eto. When in the area, make sure not to miss a visit to the com­plex of the early Christian basil­i­cas of Cim­i­tile.

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