If you come to the Naples area, you will find it omnipresent, the only active volcano left on the mainland of Italy. And whoever hears Vesuvius probably immediately thinks of the fate of Pompeii which is sunk in a cloud of ash in 79 AD. When we set the next destination in the direction of Naples, it was clear that this was a must see on our Italy roadtrip with our three kids.
The city itself is very pretty and awaits you with a lot of restaurants, souvenir shops and agencies that all want to sell trips to Vesuvius or the archaeological site. In our opinion, you don’t need a travel agent for any of the excursions, but you should have some important information in order to avoid unpleasant surprises on site.
Hiking up to the crater of Vesuvius volcano
Vesuvius is the only still active volcano on the mainland of Italy and has been part of the national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. The last eruption of the volcano took place in 1944 and even today it is stirring again, which can also be seen from the smoke development in the crater. Vesuvius has always been a cyclical volcano that alternated its eruptions with long periods of rest. It is one of the most observed volcanoes in Europe and therefore climbing Vesuvius is actually possible without any risk.
Hiking trails to the crater
There are several ways to get up the 1277m high mountain. The simplest of these is your own car. So you drive to the end of the street (actually up to the intersection at which driving towards the summit is prohibited), turn right and park next to the street. From here you can take a shuttle for 2 € per person to the entrance of the hiking trail No. 5, which leads to the crater, or you can walk these 2km (170m of height).
Once at the top you have to pass a turnstile with your ticket and from there you start the hike to the crater. The hiking trail No. 5, amounts to about 3km and 150hm there and back. You can walk about half the crater along the west ridge but then you have to turn around, as it is forbidden to go any further on the crater. At the top of the crater rim there are two souvenir shops that sell drinks and coffee and have set up some tables to make the view even more enjoyable.
In order to visit the crater of Vesuvius it is necessary to buy the tickets in advance on the internet. The only way to get a ticket is via this page: https://www.parconazionaledelvesuvio.it/en/visit-the-park/the-paths/the-great-cono/. Since the number of visitors is limited and the visits are staggered, you should get an online ticket at least one day in advance to avoid “standing in front of closed doors, as happened to us. The cost is € 11.50 per person (also for children from a height of 1.20 m).
From Pompeii, it takes about half an hour to get there with your own vehicle. You should definitely plan around 2 hours for the hike from the parking lot to the crater and the visit. On arrival, this excursion destination, with a total duration of around 3 hours, results in a perfect half-day program that can be linked incredibly well with the excavation sites in Pompeii.
Inevitably connected ist the history of Vesuvius and Pompeii, so a visit to at least one of the archaeological sites (Pompeii or Herculaneum) is a must see. Pompeii sank a about 2,000 years ago during a violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius and was covered by a thick layer. It was in the 18th century that the extremely well-preserved ruins and remains of the city, were found again. Pompeii has been a World Heritage Site since 1997. It is impressive how complete and good looking this city was brought back to the surface and so you can stroll on the once lively Roman streets and let yourself be catapulted back into the life back then.
Particularly impressive are the Colosseum and the Terme, Pompeii’s public bathhouse. But also just strolling through the alleys and imagining the bustling life on the shopping street that must have reigned here is a lot of fun.
The plastic sculptures of Pompeii are also impressive to see. People who were killed in the outbreak left prints in the ashes with which they were covered. Of this prints scupltures were reformed and show us how tragically the residents died at that time.
We decided to take a tour on our own and were on the road for about 2 hours in the area through which we let ourselves drift through, half randomly.
Visiting Vesuvius and Pompeii with kids?
To keep it relaxed for us and the kids, we rented an apartment in Pompei, about 30 minutes from the parking lot at Vesuvius National Park and only about 10 minutes’ walk to the excavations of Pompeii. If it was exciting for the kids? Definitely! After all, you don’t pass an active volcano every day, with which you can get some geography up close, or stroll through original Roman alleys and, like children, jump over antique zebra crossings or play shops at real antique sales counters.
Good to know
In summer it gets hot and the Somme burns down brutally. So you should make sure you have enough water, snacks and sunscreen with you for both excursion destinations. We also recommend sturdy shoes that can get some dust off. On Vesuvius, due to the altitude, it can also get a bit cool, so have some extra clothing with you.