Nine kilometres east of Naples lies its most famous – and deadly – attraction. The history of Mount Vesuvius, a 1,200-metre-high volcano, has long been intertwined with Naples and its surrounding area. The volcano is best known for its eruption in 79 AD which buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under a cloud of stones, ash and molten rock. An estimated 16,000 people died, and the towns, which have been excavated over the past 200 years, are UNESCO World Heritage sites, attracting millions of visitors a year.
Today, the area surrounding Vesuvius is a national park, and visitors can climb to the summit of Vesuvius for excellent views over Naples and the surrounding area. The walk from the parking area takes about 30 minutes. Make sure you wear proper walking shoes as the track is uneven. In hot weather, you'll need plenty of water, too. Once you reach the crater, which is 500 metres across and 300 metres deep, you may see some volcanic steam rising from the ground. Looking down into the crater, the surface is covered with volcanic rock and patches of grass.
The city of Pompeii is eight kilometres from Mount Vesuvius and was buried under 6 metres of ash after the eruption in 79 AD. The city was undisturbed for 1,500 years but has been gradually and still only partially excavated. Today, the site is one of Italy's most popular tourist attractions. You could spent days exploring the ruins, and there are some heartbreaking sights of the remains of families clutching each other as the volcanic ash overwhelmed them.
Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii are easily accessible from Naples. Driving to the volcano takes about 40 minutes up narrow, winding roads. There are regular buses from Piazza Piedigrotta and Piazza di Garibaldi in Naples. The best way to reach Pompeii from Naples is by train.