The Italian Diaries – Mt. Vesuvius

Telling someone you’ve climbed a volcano is a surefire way to impress them. Following up by saying you’ve done it 3 times is pretty badass!

thumb_IMG_2259_1024

Yes, this would be my third time climbing Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano famous for destroying the city of Pompeii in 79 AD. I wish I could tell you it gets easier each time. But, it doesn’t.

There used to be a funicular that you could ride up to the volcano. You were even able to walk down into the crater. Unfortunately (?) due to the volcanic eruptions in 1906 and 1944, the funicular was destroyed and not rebuilt. I can’t imagine it was that safe anyway! And you are no longer able to walk down into the crater, which also was probably not the safest idea, as there are holes all over releasing volcanic smoke and fumes. Yea…pretty cool stuff!

FunicularRailwayonVesuvius(source)

You will see a wealth of interesting people when you arrive at the base of the mountain. My favorite are the girls in high heels. Do you know you’re here to climb a volcano? Good luck. There are some clothing and food vendors, as well as places to sit if you are not climbing.

thumb_IMG_2238_1024

Then begins your trek. It is extremely sandy, which makes it hard for your feet to grasp much of anything. There are railings in some parts, which I used often to pause and catch my breath. But basically you climb upwards in one direction, then there will be a brief landing, and you continue your climb in the other direction. A zigzag pattern of sorts.

thumb_IMG_2252_1024

You’ll see pretty amazing views of Naples on your way up.

thumb_IMG_2261_1024

When you reach the top, there are numerous views inside the crater.

thumb_IMG_2249_1024

As I mentioned earlier, you can see the smoke rising in parts, as Mt. Vesuvius is still an active volcano.

It’s quite chilly at the top, as you are literally in the clouds!

thumb_IMG_2254_1024

Check out this picture from my grandmother’s balcony looking out at the top of Mt. Vesuvius – as I said…literally in the clouds!

thumb_IMG_2289_1024

It’s freaken hard, but totally worth it. You’ll have some serious bragging rights and probably not meet many other people in the world who can say they’ve climbed a volcano! And remember, wear sneakers for the journey.

The Italian Diaries – Pompeii

Pompeii is filled with wonder, just as you would imagine. In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted and destroyed everything in its path. The ruins of Pompeii are still standing today, and it’s really amazing to walk down the streets and think about what life was like 2000 years ago. I’ve been there 4 times, and I still haven’t even scratched the surface of all there is to see.

thumb_IMG_2187_1024

A couple of important things to know about Pompeii before you visit. First, there is the actual town of Pompeii. Within this town, you have the gated ruins of Pompeii, which is a tourist attraction that you pay to get into. The actual town of Pompeii is NOT a good area. It’s very sketchy. One of the times I visited with my family, we got ripped off in the parking lot. We paid the “parking lot attendant” who showed us where to park, then all of a sudden he broke out into a sprint. Yea, he didn’t work there. We then had to pay the actual parking lot attendant. And this was with my Italian-speaking relatives.

But the ruins are well worth the trip.

thumb_IMG_2184_1024

Keep in mind, when you are walking through the ruins, it is hot. Take what you imagine hot to be and multiply it be 5. It’s that hot. You are entirely out in the open without any shade or cover. The sun is just beating down on stone. All day. IT’S FREAKEN HOT, YO! Bring water, lots of it.

thumb_IMG_2196_1024

Next – the bathrooms are scarce and there is only one place to eat inside the grounds. And that place is not that good. My recommendation? Eat right outside of the grounds. You’ll find vendors, similar to American food trucks, that make delicious paninis. They are also selling lots of little trinkets related to the ruins and volcanoes. And if you’re in the mood to negotiate, you can barter with the vendors and get souvenirs for much cheaper than inside.

OK – now to the actual ruins.

thumb_IMG_2178_1024

It’s quite stunning to see Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background of the towering pillars that once made an alter to worship the gods.

thumb_IMG_2183_1024

Tucked away in the ruins are houses with intricate carvings and details.

thumb_IMG_2191_1024

Something that has always been fascinating to me are the casts of the bodies. The volcanic ash literally preserved bodies in their moments of death.

thumb_IMG_2193_1024

Sounds morbid, I know, but quite fascinating to see.

thumb_IMG_2198_1024

It’s also pretty amazing to see some of the marble statues that are still perfectly in tact since 79 AD.

thumb_IMG_2201_1024

There is an amphitheater where shows were presented to the people of Pompeii.

thumb_IMG_2216_1024

And even a colosseum where gladiators performed for the crowds.

thumb_IMG_2223_1024

Sadly, the colosseum has become quite overgrown, but you can still imagine its magnitude.

thumb_IMG_2226_1024

Pompeii is filled with so many mysteries. The ruins, the volcano, the story behind the people are all so fascinating that Pete and I gobble up any new information we can find about it. We’re constantly seeking out books and documentaries that tell us more.

thumb_IMG_2220_1024

You’ll just have to visit and see for yourself. But remember, wear a hat and drink lots of water!

Next stop…Ravello!