Trekking up Vesuvius

By | Category: Travel destinations
Pompeii pillars

The ruins of Pompeii

Italy is a living museum. Every town and city has a story rooted in antiquity.

I arrived at the archaeological site of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii which, covering about 64 hectares,  is a city frozen in time – 79 AD to be precise. It was excavated from six metres of volcanic ash 400 years ago and, since then, has attracted visitors from all over the world. I was walking in history as I strolled on raised pavements in the cobble paved streets and narrow roads, amazingly arranged in a very orderly manner according to a systematic urban plan.

At each crossroads, I found engraved stone fountains with rectangular stone basins. It was a remarkable experience to look at the large counters of shops with built-in stone bowls. One level and two storey stone houses with stepping-stones stood on main roads and in smaller alleys.

Pompeii building with frescoes

wandering through the still ornate buildings in Pompeii

I entered a house through a small corridor with fine, colourful mosaic floors which opened into a large central atrium with a small pool (to catch rain water) and was surrounded by small rooms, leading to a large garden with a porch and fountain. The brightly plastered rooms were decorated with fine paintings on the walls. I continue my stroll around in the pleasure city, coming across brothels and fascinating bath houses which used to have hot and cold water and were marvellously decorated with frescoed walls.

I was inspired and felt the power of this ancient city, when I went through the Forum (the commercial centre of the town) and saw the Basilica, the Temples of Apollo, Jupiter and Vespasian, sanctuaries, rich buildings and vineyards ending up in a magnificent large amphitheatre. It is truly an antique miniature version of a modern city. The rooted Greek and Roman culture, architecture and design carry the depth of an advanced civilization.

I imagined the dreadful scene at the time of the eruption. A cloud of grey smoke covered the blue sky. The pressurized molten rocks were flowing from Mount Vesuvius andthe lava was pushing into theair and rapidly suffocating nearby towns. People ran And, in my mind, I could hear the cries and screams of scared women, the howls of children yelling in fear and helpless men despairing in their fear knowing there was little they could do.. There was no escape for anyone. Everything  and everyone was silenced and the town was buried quickly under tons of ashes.

modern visitors to Pompeii

pompeii attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. At times it can be very busy

For what sin, were they killed? Was it an act of God? Was it the work of nature? Was it a sin city condemned to a horrific mass punishment? How can I find the truth? There have been many speculations over the centuries.

I watched the legendary volcanic Vesuvius along the Vesuvian coast, that beautiful landmark that stands gloriously over the Bay of Naples. I wondered about its complexity and power. I sensed that there was more to it than I saw. I had to climb it to find out for myself.

Mount Vesuvius is to the east of Naples. We passed residential areas and vineyards before reaching the protected Vesuvius National Park. We sat in a heavy-duty minibus with very large tyres, looking more like a military vehicle than a tourist bus. It drove through a bumpy narrow one-way road up the hill through a forest with very tall trees surrounded with shrubs. It was a very rough drive and took us 20 minutes before we reached the upper car park. The guide told us that we had only 90 minutes to hike up 800 metres up a track, on the slopes of the mountain to reach a crater 1170 metres above sea-level and return to our bus.

steep path

the path up can be very steep, its not for those with walking difficulties or the very elderly

The woman in the first kiosk checked my ticket saying: “you are travelling too heavily with a rucksack and two cameras, what are they?” I said, “one is long, the other one is wide.” She said, ”Oh, which one is long, which one is wide,” I explained the purpose for each: The woman warned me, to be careful not to fall as the trail was very steep.” I took on board her warning. The narrow path was covered with dust, clod and chunks of rock and certainly not for anyone who is unfit or too elderly. As I got higher and higher, there was less vegetation and more rock.  People, young and old were going up and down eagerly. I was breathless, but my soul was tangled up in the joy of getting to the top.

I eventually reached another checkpoint kiosk next to the summit from where there was a spiral walkway around the mountain to see the crater. The volcano is currently inactive, but the white steams of gases and fumes coming out from the bottom of the crater were visible. Although the mountain was cloudy and foggy, I could still see a splendid panoramic view of the bay of Naples, Naples, the Amalfi coast and the small islands of Capri and Ischia.

views from the Vesuvius path

either side of the path there are steep drops – but the views are wonderful

The people were there for a day out, enjoying the scenery, watching Vesuvius, looking at the crater, inattentive of its past destruction, but praising the killer mountain. Some had mixed feelings of love and hate. There were no fears among the people that the volcano might erupt again without any warning.

The Earth seethes and boils internally because of the density of magma and movement of rocks. Mother Nature makes it cool off by releasing internal pressurised gases which can cause massive devastation around it. However, Mount Vesuvius’s destructive phenomena have other benefits and procreative sides. The volcanic ash is full of nutrients and nourishing elements which are good for the soil and hold water for plants. The deposits from lava regenerate the soil and create the richest agricultural lands for farming.

Vesuvius steam

steam is still visible from Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius seems more like a  mythical landmark than a real one because of all those many mysterious tales from history. It has witnessed many changes in this part of the world over the centuries. I would love to come back again to the coast of Naples, staying longer to study its ancient sites, exploring the culture and traditions of this area.

For more information about Pompeii, click here. There is a local, official site for Pompeii tourism but it is only in Italian.

vesuvius view back to Pompeii

the view looking down from Vesuvius

For more information about the Vesuvius National Park, click here.

 

 

Images and story © Mohammed Reza Amarinia.

 

For more images of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, go to www.amirinia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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