Looming large over the Bay of Naples, the volcano of Mount Vesuvius consists of a condensed cone, Mount Somma, which rises up to the height of 1152 meters with Punta Nasone, on the Northern side. Mount Somma consists of a smaller cone, Mount Vesuvius, also referred to as Gran Cono. These conical shapes are separated by a sunken zone, called Valle del Gigante. Part of the early caldera from which, most likely during the well-known eruption of 79 AC emerged Mount Vesuvius. Valle del Gigante is divided into Valle dell’Inferno on the east-side and Atrio del Cavallo on the west-side.
Mount Vesuvius History
The historical significance of Mount Vesuvius lies in the fact that it was infamously responsible for the ruin of the prosperous Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the year 79 AD. The last eruption at Vesuvius took place in the year 1944. What is today known as “Vesuvius” is actually the younger portion of the entire mountain complex which geologists refer to as “Greater Vesuvius.” The elder portion of the mountain, presently a dead volcano, is known as Monte Somma. A fresco found from Pompeii depicts one whole summit, as a much taller Monte Somma blanketed in greens prior to the infamous eruption of 79 AD. In the year 1995, the locale around Mount Vesuvius was transformed into the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio, the National Park of Vesuvius.
The volcano mountain slopes, which differ in their gradient, are lined by deep radial grooves created due to the erosion of meteoric waters. The entire section in the next part is distinguished by dykes as well as borders of dark colored volcanic rock. The age-old crater fringe is actually a group of summits called “cognoli”. While the elevation and character of Mount Somma has remained unchanged for ages, the height of the Mount Vesuvius as well as its profile have suffered substantial deviation, as a consequence of the subsequent eruptions, with the height sometimes increasing and sometimes reducing. Mount Vesuvius is a typical polygenic volcano with diverse character, which means that it is formed by lava of various chemical compositions (for instance, tephrite, trachyte, leucite) and created either by pyroclastic deposits or by lava casting.
All the regions on the slopes of the volcano mountain have been formed by transferred lava mud which, in the rainy seasons, runs down from the sharp slopes via deep and narrow furrows known as channels or more popularly, “lagni”. The high mounds have been formed by heaps of lavic scoriae, which deposited in glowing state and then spread further towards the lower slopes. These regions were rich in fertile materials of silicon and potassium, good for the vegetation.
As you walk along the crater of the Mount Vesuvius you can view the whole area of the southern portion of the volcano and, if the sky is clear you can even expect to see the complete gulf of Naples, from the Sorrento peninsula to Cape Miseno, Ischia and Procida.
Established in an attempt to protect the natural wild habitation of the area and preserve the enchanting beauty of Mount Vesuvius and Mount Somma, the Vesuvius National Park is home to various animal as well as vegetable species and preserves various geological anomalies, biotopes, palaeontological formations, picturesque and panoramic values, as well as ecological balances. Among the Mediterranean vegetation found here, pine-woods and holm-oak trees are the most significant members. Mount Somma is more humid with wood vegetation like the Apennines one, with chestnut woods, alders, holm-oaks, oak trees, and maples. The last eruption of the year 1944 has resulted in a magic species of fruticose lichen called “Stereocaulon vesuvianum at the Atrio dell’Inferno.
The Vesuvius Observatory was established between 1841 and 1845 in the reign of Ferdinand II of Bourbon and it is positioned at 600 meters above sea level and it has survived some important eruptions without being severely damaged. It was constructed on the southern edge of the Somma caldera, amid two deep valleys adjoining the hill.
How to reach Mount Vesuvius
If you are driving on your own, you can take motorway A3 Salerno – Napoli till the exit of Torre del Greco in order to reach Mount Vesuvius. Then turn right, and proceed toward the first crossroads, to the left of which you can go straight through Via De Nicola and then Via Vesuvio.
You can get off at the easiest rail lines – Sorrento-Napoli or Pompei-Napoli lines to reach Ercolano-Scavi station. You can easily get a bus service, operated by Trasporti Vesuviani.