Looming above the Bay of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius (Monte Vesuvio) erupted in AD 79 and covered Pompeii in ash, preserving parts of the ancient city that can still be seen today. The volcano itself is still active—the only active one in continental Europe—and, though dormant, is considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. Despite this, many visitors hike the mountain to see its infamous crater and are rewarded with stunning views of Pompeii, the Bay of Naples, and the surrounding Italian countryside.
Mt. Vesuvius is easily seen from below, but a trip to the volcano itself provides the best understanding of the area and its impact on the region’s history. A hike up the mountain begins in Mount Vesuvius National Park, which has nine nature trails and allows for summit access. The crater’s lunar landscape is otherworldly, and the views are tough to beat. Many visitors combine a visit to the area with a stop in the scenic seaside town of Sorrento.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Mt. Vesuvius is ideal for both outdoor lovers and history buffs.
- Hiking is best suited for clear days when you can enjoy the views.
- If you plan to hike, wear comfortable walking shoes. The paths are often dusty and rocky, so closed-toe shoes are best.
- You can walk to the edge of the crater only with a certified guide.
How to Get There
Mount Vesuvius National Park is easily accessible from Naples via the Circumvesuviana train. The nearest stop is Ercolano, and from there the Busvia del Vesuvio takes you up the mountain. There’s also a local bus that runs from Pompeii. Alternatively, you can book a private or guided tour, which provides transportation, crater access, and insight into the history and details of ancient life in the area.
When to Get There
Though Mt. Vesuvius is visitable open year-round, the best time to go is in the off-season, October to April. Crowds and temperatures both rise during summer. Spring and early fall provide the best times to avoid the area’s potential fog.
The Eruption That Changed History
It’s impossible to understand the impact that Mt. Vesuvius had on Italy—and the world—without a visit to the nearby archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Though many people tragically died in the volcanic eruption, their homes and ways of life remain largely intact in one of the world’s best-preserved ancient sites.