When: 27-29 April 2018
In August 79, Vesuvius, the volcano worshiped by the Romans and considered the power of Jupiter, revealed his cruel face and in two days buried for centuries the inhabitants of the nearby city Pompeii. It was one of the most catastrophic eruptions of all time. The volcano ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km, spewing molten rock and pulverised pumice at the rate of 600,000 cubic metres (600 million litres) per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing. 4 to 6 m layer of volcanic ash covered the city. It took more than 1500 years for Pompeii to see the daylight again.
I started my 48 hours visit in Italy with hiking up Vesuvius. The volcano is considered today one of the most dangerous in the world, as surrounded by 3 mln people living nearby, it is the most densely populated volcanic region on our planet. It’s worth noticing that Vesuvius is the only volcano in the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years (most recently in 1944). Between 79 and 1944, the volcano erupted approximately 30 times, that is on average every 60 years. None of the eruptions that have happened since the Pompeian one has been equally powerful or destructive, yet, while hiking up and down the mountain, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would take the risk and settle near such a monster.
Practically: since I had a car, I was able to drive almost to the top of Vesuvius. Almost, because private vehicles were not allowed to pass the fork of Strada Provinciale and Strada per Belvedere Vesuvio. It’s possible though to leave a car in the parking located next to the fork (5 euro) and walk up to the top of the mountain. There was an entrance fee to access the rim – 10 euro per person. It’s really worth getting the tickets in the ticket office on the way up instead of realising that they are not sold at the very entrance and being forced to walk back in the sun and heat to the ticket office. Ahem… Just saying. I think the whole hike from the car, around Vesuvius and back took about 3 hours.
Important info for drone fliers: there is a strict no drone zone around Vesuvius. Sad story.
My initial plan to visit both Vesuvius and Pompeii during one day crashed and burned. By the time I arrived at Naples International Airport, collected the car, ate my first REAL Neapolitan pizza and hiked up and down Vesuvius mountain it was too late to visit Pompeii. I didn’t want to just tick it. I wanted to properly see it and so I postponed my visit to the following day. Good decision indeed. Walking around Pompeii without being rushed and without jumping from one place to another was crucial. I had time to gape at the jaw-dropping mosaics, stare at the fine frescos and admire the smallest details of the sculptures. It was hard to believe that the intricate finishing of floors and walls, that survived in almost perfect condition to this day, were actually made some 2000 years ago. I can’t compare Pompeii to anything else I’ve seen so far. Visiting ancient temples is one thing but walking through the streets on which ancient Romans walked and entering their homes moves a sightseeing experience to a whole new level.
Practically: there was parking located next to the site (3 euro per hour). The entrance fee to Pompeii was 17 euro per person. To avoid queuing for hours at the main entrance, tickets can be purchased online or in another ticket office that is located in the railway station building (Pompei Scavi – Villa Dei Misteri), upstairs. Given that there are no information boards on site and the free map handed out with your ticket provides only the information about location of each building, I’d strongly recommend to get some form of a guide (either a real guide, audioguide or at least a book/map with a description of each building). This will ensure that you don’t miss out on VERY important places, like a brothel. At least I’ve got a reason to go back. I think the sightseeing time depends on the individual’s ability to absorb historic information in one go. I reached my limit after 3-4 hours.
My reasoning behind the idea of going to Amalfi was to spend two nights in beautiful surroundings and sip a morning coffee while admiring an undisturbed seaside view. I can honestly say that I got exactly what I wanted, if not more. The narrow, winding roads and colourful, charming coastal towns scattered on the slopes of the mountains that emerged straight from the sea created a truly scenic driving route. I don’t think I could ever get bored with the breathtaking views that this part of Italy had to offer. And the lemons! The cliff-side terraces almost buckled under the weight of these wonderfully fragrant and juicy yellow fruits. Homemade limoncello was just a matter of time as I could not resist buying this delicious Amalfi’s specialty. I was even given a recipe from the roadside vendor from whom I obtained the additional 2 kg of my hand luggage: 1 kg of lemon per 1 litre of alcohol. It really makes sense to visit Amalfi coast when going to Naples, even if the trip is as short as mine and lasts only 48 hours.
Practically: finding a parking space on the road was a real challenge and I ended up with very few photos of the coast as there was just nowhere to stop the car. I saw some lay-bys but they were all occupied. The drive itself was pretty mad as it seemed to be a common thing for Italians to constantly use the horn and overtake other cars on the corners. I think taking a bus would probably be a good alternative to driving as it would allow to visit local towns without worrying about a parking space. In terms of my accommodation, I hit the jackpot. I stayed in Hotel Villa Pandora, which was located 20 min away (by foot) from Maiori. The breakfast was great, the staff extremely nice and the view of the sea that stretched out from the hotel was simply idyllic. My return to Campania is inevitable.