Until the earthquake of AD 62 and the eruption of AD 79 which buried Herculaneum and Pompeii, Vesuvius seemed extinct; its slopes were clothed with famous vines and woods.
By 1139, seven eruptions had been recorded. Then came a period of calm during which the slopes of the mountains were cultivated. On 16 December 1631 Vesuvius had a terrible awakening, destroying all the settlements at its foot: 3000 people perished.
The eruption of 1794 devastated Torre del Greco. The volcano had minor eruptions in 1858, 1871, 1872, from 1895 to 1899, 1900, 1903, 1904, a major eruption in 1906, 1929, and one in 1944 altering the shape of the crater. Since then, apart from brief activity linked with the 1980 earthquake, Vesuvius has emitted only a plume of smoke. A good road leads to a junction in the midst of lava flows. Take the left fork (car park a few kilometres futher on).
The path is an easy but most impressive climb up the volcano, scattered with cinders and lapilli. From the summit there is an immense panorama over the Bay of Naples with the Sorrento Peninsula in the south and Cape Miseno in the north. Beyond is the Gulf of Gaeta.
The crater affords an unforgettable sight for its sheer size and the sense of desolation on the slopes of the jagged walls, for the great yawning crater, which takes on a pink color in the sun, and for the spouting steam-jets.