“On its slopes the most exquisite wines are made, called by Neapolitans Lacryma and Greco, and the most delicate fruits; and that is due to the ashes that fall from the Mountain on the soil below, which is soaked in “solsi”. And the ashes, mixed with the rain, make the land highly fertile and its herbs and fruits so delicious”.

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According to scholars, the populations that lived on the slopes of Vesuvius before the 1st century B.C. were completely unaware of the dangerous nature of the volcano, even if some Greek scholars like Strabone and Diodoro Siculo, had guessed the strong connection between “the river of fire (lava) and Vesuvius”. Later, Latin scholars like Seneca, Sisenna, Plinio the Old, Vitruvio, Virgilio, Columella and many others, unaware of the turbulent and eruptive past of the volcano, named it “locus amoenus”: they loved it for its beautiful gardens and delicious fruits and vegetables, as well as for its remarkable wine making.

The famous poet Giacomo Leopardi defined our volcano as “Vesuvius, Exterminator terrible”, and writes: :

17. These fields with barren ashes strown,
18. And lava, hardened into stone,
19. Beneath the pilgrim’s feet, that hollow sound,
20. Where by their nests the serpents coiled (…)
21. Were cheerful villages and towns,
22. With waving fields of golden grain,
23. And musical with lowing herds;
24. Were gardens, and were palaces,
25. That to the leisure of the rich
26. A grateful shelter gave;
27. Were famous cities, which the mountain fierce,
28. Forth-darting torrents from his mouth of flame,
29. Destroyed, with their inhabitants.

(The Ginestra, or the Flower of the Wilderness.)

At the moment, the volcano is in a dormant state: just some fumaroles inside the crater, and all the area around is intensely cultivated and populated. Houses and hotels, restaurants, buildings and small villas have been built up to 700 meters above the sea level. The height and the shape of Vesuvius have been modified through the centuries because of the eruptions and the movements of the soil.

The eye of the beholder is caught by the fabulous view from the top of the volcano. From its height, looking downwards, you can admire the beautiful Gulf of Napoli, the sea in front of Torre Annunziata, the Sorrento Coast, Castellammare di Stabia, Torre del Greco, Capri, Procida and Ischia. In the evening this beautiful sight becomes much more suggestive, as everything is illuminated by the street lamps and by the moon and the stars reflecting in the sea around the Gulf.

When we talk about the Vesuvius, we refer to the whole complex Somma-Vesuvius, that is the Volcano and the Mount Somma; anyway, these two areas feature different but also similar aspects, especially the strong anthropization which is the main peculiarity of both gentle hills. The Vesuvius area is drier and sunny, characterized by wild Mediterranean vegetation with pine forests and holm oaks. The Mount Somma, on the other hand, shows the typical Apennine vegetation, with chestnut woods, birch trees and maples.

The colonization of the volcanic soil began shortly after the cooling. It is due to the Stereocaulon Vesuvianum lichen, which was the first living being to settle on the cool lava, and prepared the soil for the rooting of plants. It completely covers the Vesuvian lavas, giving them a grey color and covering the lava with silvery sheen.

The flower list includes 906 different species, with 23 types of orchids and several species of brooms: Genista tinctoria, Genista aetnensis, the latter imported from Etna in 1906 and nowadays distributed throughout the Vesuvian area.