Towering over the city of Naples, Mount Vesuvius makes a stunning backdrop to any visit to the area (when it hasn't got a cloud sitting on top of it, that is). This region is highly volcanic - from here down to Mount Etna in Sicily you can see the effects of volcanic activity everywhere in the landscape, which gets stranger and stranger as you drive further south. A narrow, winding road takes you almost up to the crater of Vesuvius. Watch out for coaches coming towards you as you drive around the bends. The car park at the top quickly fills up, and we parked on a road lower down and walked up, which led to an amusing chapter for Road School. You buy your tickets to go the crater in the car park at the top of the road - be warned, there are no refunds if your view from the top is spoiled by clouds. The path up to the crater is steep and is made of crumbling black volcanic rock, so it is quite a hard walk. However, there are lots of benches and resting places on the way up.
At the top of the volcano you can get really close to the crater - only a wooden barrier separates you from the drop, and you can see steam rising and smell the sulphur in the air. When (or if) the frequent clouds clear from the top of Vesuvius, you get a stunning view of Naples and its surroundings - right across to the Amalfi coast. There are numerous stalls at the top to buy potcards and souvenirs of your visit. Our kids were particularly excited to find lots of Obsidian available for purchase.
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