This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
As you probably already know, Mt. Vesuvius is the volcano responsible for destroying the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and Oplonti in 79 A.D. Us Neapolitans have gotten used to living near an active volcano, to the point that it has become part of the “perfect Naples postcard“, a symbol that makes our city recognizable in the whole world. If you are visiting Naples for a few days, I highly suggest you add hiking Mount Vesuvius to your itinerary. While a visit to Pompeii archaeological site will be impressive, only climbing Mount Vesuvius you’ll understand the enormity of what happened… and of the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.
Facts about Mount Vesuvius
- Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on mainland Europe (Mount Etna, in fact, is located in Sicily which is an Italian island);
- In 2013 the height of the cone was 4203 feet (1281 meters), but it changes considerably after each eruption;
- Mount Vesuvius rose from the insides of Mount Somma, destroying half of the ancient volcano. Today Mount Somma has a half-moon shape and hides Mount Vesuvius from the sight if you go in the province of Naples;
- Between Mount Vesuvius and Mount Somma there’s Valle del Gigante (Giant’s valley);
- More than two million people live near the Vesuvius and on its lower slopes;
- The slopes of Vesuvius are covered with vineyard and orchards. They produce a particularly famous (and a bit expensive) Neapolitan wine called “Lacryma Christi“, the Latin name means “tear of Christ“);
- The last eruption was in 1944, but in October 1999 a series of earthquakes terrified those living in the Naples area: everyone was sure that Mount Vesuvius had awakened;
- The super famous Neapolitan song Funiculì Funiculà (“Jamme, jamme ‘ncoppa, jamme jà!”: did I mention already that Neapolitan dialect is a completely different language?) was written to celebrate the opening of the first funicular cable car that reached the top of Mount Vesuvius. Unfortunately the funicular represented a huge financial disaster and was closed only a few years later;
- If you’re visiting Naples in winter you might not be able to hike Mount Vesuvius due to adverse weather conditions;
- You can clearly see Mount Vesuvius from a few of the towns on the Amalfi Coast;
- Some tourists think they can steal rocks on Mount Vesuvius: please don’t do it! You can find here a list of Italian souvenirs that won’t put you in trouble!
How to get to Mount Vesuvius
Many people are sure that getting to Mount Vesuvius National Park is expensive or complicated. As a Neapolitan I beg to differ. A Mount Vesuvius hike represents the perfect day trip from Naples if you like the great outdoors and the uncommon destinations. Tourists that visit Naples in fact all go for the usual suspects: Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Capri or the other islands. But what about the sleeping giant that has shaped our history and that represents the beloved background for every picture and selfie tourists take in most of the amazing places to see in Naples? To be honest, I think you can fit a trip to Mt. Vesuvius even in a short 10 days Italy itinerary: let’s see how!
Reaching Mount Vesuvius from Naples
To get to Mount Vesuvius you won’t even have to buy an expensive tour from Naples. A regular bus ride with EAV Bus will do the trick. The buses to Mount Vesuvius leave from Piazza Piedigrotta in Naples and reach Mount Vesuvius after one hour and half. Be aware of the fact that the buses will leave you to a panoramic terrace… which is basically a parking lot. You will only be able to reach the crater by hiking.
In case the parking lot is full, the buses will leave you at about 3km from it. There is generally a smaller shuttle bus that can drive you to the ticket office with 1€.
Also as Neapolitans (we have it in our blood!) we are used to it, but generally people coming from abroad are terrified. The road to reach the “parking lot” is pretty narrow. If there are lots of buses (much like on the Amalfi Coast) getting through will require several attempts from the driver. Actually, driving on that route is particularly complicated and our drivers are very good to be put on that line. If you are scared of heights, by all means, don’t ever look out of your window unless you want to panic! It might feel as if you’re hanging on a cliff: believe me, I’ve been there countless times! To distract myself from looking down, I have started to pay more attention to the landscape. You’d be surprised to notice how much lava there’s also pretty down the slopes, away from the cone!
The buses from Naples leave at 09:00. The last one returns from the Vesuvius is at 15:30. You can check all the stops of the bus rides on this printable pdf file. Beware that usually because there might be ice and a lot of rain in winter, the bus rides to the Vesuvius might be suspended in January and February.
Getting to Mt. Vesuvius from Ercolano or Pompeii
Another way to reach Mount Vesuvius is using the Circumvesuviana train from Naples to Ercolano Scavi and from there one of the taxis (they are pretty expensive) or buses to go to the national park. You can also go from Pompeii to the Vesuvius using an EAV bus in case you already are in Pompeii. Yet if you are leaving from Naples, you should get a train to Pompeii and from there your EAV bus. I find much easier to go from Naples using just one bus!
You can buy the EAV tickets on the bus.
Please be aware that you CAN’T visit Pompeii AND climb Mount Vesuvius in one day or you won’t be able to enjoy the archaeological site.
Mount Vesuvius National Park: Useful info
In the summer of 2017 a big chunk of the Mount Vesuvius National Park burned down because of a huge fire. It was terrifying and many people had to leave their homes, as it spread to the nearby cities. Those who burned down our mountain were arrested, but as I already mentioned when I told you that Naples is safe, many of the locals offered to buy new trees or donated their savings to heal “our” Vesuvius. Because we know this can be an active volcano and we should all be scared, but it’s part of our lives and we still love “O Vesuvio“.
Unfortunately you might still see the scars left from the huge fire: here things are sadly very slow, and it always takes a lot of time to fix everything, especially National Parks!
Mount Vesuvius National Park was born in 1995 to protect this part of land, which is very interesting for scientists and biologists, who are still studying the area, making new discoveries almost on a daily basis. Mount Vesuvius is like a canva on which Mother Nature and the people who used to live here before us left a lot of information and we are using it to understand what happened with the previous eruptions and how we can make sure the next one won’t turn into an ugly mess.
Tickets and times
Tickets to Mount Vesuvius National Park cost 10€, unless you have a document stating you are an Italian student, or that you live in one of the 13 cities in the park. In that case, the ticket will cost you 8€.
The park is open every day of the year unless, as I already mentioned, there’s ice on the road or it’s raining too hard.
In January, February, November and December the opening times are 09:00-15:00; in March and October the opening times are 09:00-16:00; in April, May, June and September the opening times are 09:00-17:00; in July and August the opening times are 09:00-18:00.
Mount Vesuvius Visitor Information and Services
As you probably already know, I always am very honest and while I love my homeland, I am ready to admit that we are lacking in some areas.
Mt. Vesuvius National Park is one of them.
The parking lot is often dirty and you will probably see the ugly garbage: not everyone is civil enough to know that you shouldn’t leave trash in a national park, and there’s not enough staff to clean and keep everything in order.
There are stalls selling souvenirs to tourists and a tiny cafè (which isn’t half as good as the espresso you can drink at the best Naples cafes) in the parking lot. Yet espresso is very expensive (they usually ask 1.50€ per cup, but with 1.10€ you can drink it at Grand Café Gambrinus in Naples!!! In this case you will be excused if you don’t apply the Italy tipping etiquette!), like basically everything else: they apply the usual “tourist rates”. So if you want to save some money, bring your own water, and avoid shopping.
Now, you might expect that a park has public toilets, right?
Wrong! Those at Mt. Vesuvius are often “strangely” broken and you won’t be able to use them. But you can pee in a porta potty just for 1€. Ugh.
I’ve read a lot of false information about climbing Mt. Vesuvius from people who probably never visited. It’s absolutely not true that there are a lot of cafes or snack shops all the way to the crater. Aside from the “café” in the parking lot, you will only find another tiny shop on the top, near the crater. They mostly sell souvenirs, Lacryma Christi wine bottles, water, coffee and a few snacks. There’s no public bathroom (not even for the customers) and everything is pretty expensive. In between the entrance and this tiny shop there’s absolutely nothing. So plan in advance and bring your own water and maybe opt for a Neapolitan street food you buy before you go to Mount Vesuvius!
After the huge fire in 2017 the National Park has been left without a Director, which might explain why it has been so neglected. At the moment they are still looking for someone who can finally take the reins and start fixing things. Hopefully with a new manager things will improve: we are keeping our fingers crossed!
Climbing Mount Vesuvius
Hiking Mt. Vesuvius can be an amazing experience, provided that you know what you are doing and your limits. I am well aware that many bloggers claim this is a particularly easy hike, some even state that you can climb it in flip-flops. But I hope you will give some credit to someone who has been to the top several times throughout her life. Which is why I decided to share my own experience, a few useful information and my tips. Wrong information can get people hurt.
If you want to add something to this article, just drop me a comment and let me know how was your hike!
Beware: at the entrance you will be offered a wooden stick to help you climb Mount Vesuvius. Unless you really need it, don’t accept. You will be asked for money, and that person is not a member of the park staff. The reason why no one does anything is to be found in the paragraph about the park and the dire need of a better management. Meanwhile the best thing to do to discourage these people is not giving them money. You can climb well enough without a wooden stick that you pay for and that you will have to return once you’re back to the parking lot!
Also while I say that you can hike to the crater, I mean that you can visit up to the rim. You can’t go “inside” because the area is off limits (for obvious reasons), but you will definitely see what’s inside from the panoramic (tiny) terrace.
While climbing to the top, look around you: the view is amazing, you can see Naples, the surrounding mountains, the Gulf of Naples with the cruise ships and the old solidified lava. Bring your camera with you!
How hard is it to climb to the crater?
In many articles I read that hiking Mount Vesuvius to the main crater is “very easy”. But this trail has a medium-hard difficulty. It is steep (14% gradient) and very uneven, as you can see from my pictures. Also summer in Naples is not a good season to attempt this kind of trip. Hiking Mount Vesuvius can be like walking into a furnace if you go when it’s very hot and the humidity rate is through the roof.
As I already mentioned there’s nothing from the entrance to the panoramic terrace on the crater… not even a tiny bit of shadow, nor a bench. The trail is about 2 km long, so it’s a total of 4 km round trip. Remember to bring at least 1 bottle of water per person, because you’re going to need it.
Some claim it took them a bit more than one hour to get to the top and back to the parking lot, but I don’t particularly like this kind of assessment. Everyone climbs at a different pace, and you might want to stop to take a few pictures or shoot a video of the gulf of Naples, why hurry?
To be on the safe side, consider that a trip to Mount Vesuvius could take you a half a day, maybe a little more, according to where you are returning (Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii etc). Some visit Mount Vesuvius from Rome. If that’s your case, maybe you won’t have that much time to hike at a very slow pace!
When you reach the top, don’t be surprised to find a lot of religious images: Neapolitans are particularly superstitious and San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples. So they have left there many sacred images and items in a niche. Basically… it’s a Neapolitan life insurance, so San Gennaro can keep Mount Vesuvius under control and save Naples!
What gear do you need to climb the Vesuvius?
It is important to wear a good pair of hiking boots. On the floor there’s a lot of debris and pumice stones, so it’s easy to slip. I prefer to wear hiking boots that protect my ankles, because I feel way safer, and I do so also when it’s very warm. In case it’s way too hot, I carry them in my backpack, wear them at the entrance, and when I’m done again I change into a nice pair of comfortable sandals. I do so wherever I go, also at the amazing Plitvice Lakes National Park, because it’s very important to use the right footwear if you’re planning to hike!
Please do not attempt to hike in a pair of flip-flops or even worse, wearing high heels. You’re bound to get hurt.
Aside from a solid pair of hiking boots, I like to bring with me a foldable raincoat. Not because I’m afraid of the rain but because, especially if you’re hiking in months like March, April, October or November, on the top it will be a bit cold. I remember seeing tourists wearing Birkenstock sandals, cute shorts… and climbing down from the top with blueish skin, trembling because of the cold. They were baffled: isn’t Naples always very warm?
Well yes, generally, but with a height of almost 1300 meters, it’s only natural that the air is a bit more chilly!
A foldable raincoat is easy to carry and lightweight. You can just keep it in your backpack. Good for you if you won’t need it, but just in case… it’s there for you to use it.
Wear a hat because there’s no shade, anywhere on the path, until you get to the tiny shop at the top. The sun here can be brutal.
If you read the previous paragraphs you’ll know that there’s a lot of garbage in the parking lot. We help the environment reducing as much as possible the use of plastic, so we are carrying around reusable bottles that won’t hurt our planet. Consider bringing one of those with you, or be prepared to bring back your trash with you: there aren’t many trash bins. Sadly.
What is the best period to plan your trip?
Provided that January and February are rainy months, and that often the Park is closed due to the bad weather, with the climate changes we can have a scorching hot summer one year and a rainy one the following year. Just consider that in December 2017 and January 2018 there was so much snow on the Vesuvius that it looked like hiking on the Alps! The road was full of ice and snow, so the authorities were forced to close it.
March, April and May can be good months, because the air is still nice and it won’t be too hot (so if you have planned a spring trip to Italy it will be ideal!). June is a bit warmer, and still a good period, but it’s more crowded because of the many cruising ships docking into our port. So many companies offer a visit to Mount Vesuvius in their day trips catalog so be prepared to hike with more people.
My personal opinion is that you should avoid the warmer months. July and August, even the first part of September are going to be a nightmare. The air is too warm, there’s too much sun, too many people, and the humidity rate is so high that it feels like you’re breathing warm water. Not the nicest feeling at all!
If you want to visit Mt. Vesuvius in autumn, then the second part of September, October and the first part of November should be fine!
Climbing with a medical condition and my experience
Hiking Mt. Vesuvius can be hard if you suffer from a medical condition. While for some the trail can be from “doable” to “easy”, according to how much they exercise, there are some things to consider if you aren’t overly fit or if you have health issues.
The very first thing I want you to be aware of is that once you are on the trail, which is particularly steep especially in the first part, there’s no bench where you can sit to rest for a while. You won’t even find some shadow. Italian food is full of options for you to choose: maybe you can bring a snack or a quick lunch with you to make sure your energy levels won’t drop too much.
If we really want to think of the worst case scenario, in case you feel unwell, you might have to wait at least half an hour for an ambulance to get there. And you will also have to wait for the doctors to hike the trail to pick you up.
My suggestion, before to plan your Mount Vesuvius hike, is to ask your doctor if you can do it. Bring with you any emergency medication you might need and don’t climb on your own. And, of course, know your limits.
I unfortunately know quite well what might happen, because I have asthma and while I don’t let it stop me from exploring or hiking, I still find it difficult to open up to someone enough to speak of my condition.
I have this issue where I feel almost like it’s my fault, or that I should be ashamed of it, because it’s not “normal”. So I keep it to myself. When I hike with my husband, I feel way more relaxed, because I know that, should anything happen, he’ll know what to do.
Yet one day I was with a group of bloggers and journalists. Aldo wasn’t with me and I stubbornly told myself that I could hike to the top of the Vesuvius “like a normal person”. No one in the group knew of my condition, and a few of them were also quite fit, so they started hiking the trail and etting a particularly fast pace (they had never been there). I was left behind within moments, and I felt the usual shame gnawing at my guts. Why couldn’t I keep up?
I stupidly pushed myself way too hard, and I felt even worse because I didn’t want to use my inhaler with so many people around. They always look at me weirdly and I hate it.
If you are familiar with asthma you will know that physical and mental stress really do make things worse. It feels like you have a ton of bricks on your chest, which won’t let you intake enough air to breathe properly. The more you panic, the more this vice will tighten.
I was halfway to the top when one of the bloggers walked up to me, asking me if I was okay. I was shaking, sweating, I was pale and terrified. I had to tell her that I have asthma, and I finally used my inhaler. But once the attack starts, in my case at least, it takes more time for the medicine to take effect.
While I appreciated her concern, her presence also was a source of stress, because I felt ashamed of looking “weak” in front of a stranger. People were staring and all I wanted was to go home. Yet the only place I could go to was the shop at the very top, near the crater, because it was summer (so very hot), and I couldn’t climb down on my own. I needed to sit down in the shade for a while.
Believe me when I tell you that I was scared for my life. When you are among people you don’t know, who don’t know your condition, have no idea what to do, in an area that feels unsafe, and you can’t breathe… you feel so lost.
As I reached the shop, which has at least some shadow and where I could sit down on a low stone wall, I thanked the blogger but asked her to leave me alone for a few minutes. She was starting to panic as well and that scared me even more. I’m sure I looked like hell, but I felt even worse and I didn’t care.
Once there, I felt invisible. The people from the shop didn’t help. Tourists were all busy to take pictures of the crater and thus I did the only thing I knew would calm me down. I picked up my phone and called my husband. I silently cried and cursed myself for being stupid. Because dudes, I was stupid. Underestimating a hike to the Vesuvius is not something you should do. My husband was able to calm me down and with his magic I even managed to offer a (breathless) laugh. After a second intake of medicine, I started to feel a little bit better, so before the other blogger returned (I really appreciated her help but she was scared for me and made me even more nervous), while still talking on the phone to Aldo, I slowly climbed down. Taking my sweet time, stopping now and then, just… hiking at my own pace.
I can do things, I have been hiking a lot, but I need to do it my way. By the time I arrived to the parking lot, the worst was over and I felt much better.
My suggestion? If you suffer from a medical condition, take it into account and take preventive steps. Know your limits and don’t push them. It has to be a lovely trip, not a race: don’t be as irresponsible as I’ve been!