Probably only a few of you know that the tomatoes, with the shape and the flavors that today everybody knows, owe their worldwide success to Mount Vesuvius. Let’s try to clarify: when tomatoes got to Europe, right after Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to America, they were just a bunch of small yellow berries, barely bigger than a cherry. The Italian name of the tomato, “pomodoro” (golden apple), clarifies this chromatic misunderstanding. This vegetable took the form, the color and the organoleptic properties that we all know today thanks to some Benedictine monks who lived in a cluster of monasteries around the Vesuvius area: those religious started to grow tomatoes in their lands, so rich in minerals of volcanic origins. And this peculiar nourishment ended up to affect the molecular structure of the plant, modifying its fruits.
This is only one of the many examples that we could bring to your attention in order to to clarify how important and significant Mount Vesuvius has been, for the communities who lived (and still live) on its slopes but also for the entire humanity. During ancient Romans times, it was worshiped like a god, since it could be magnanimous or cruel, depending on the situation. The destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, in 79 A.C., a consequence of an earthquake that caused a massive Vesuvius’ eruption, remains one of the events that marked the history of Rome in an indelible manner.
Though it’s still active, today the Vesuvius is a natural monument that anyone should visit at least once in a lifetime. Many agencies or tour operators organize individual, private or group tours on the volcano’s slopes, from which anyone can spot an overall picture of Naples and its immediate surroundings, from the city itself to the Amalfi Coast. The Vesuvius’ top is located at a height of 1281 meters, and many climbers – both professionals or amateurs – have reached it through the centuries, despite the fact that Vesuvius remains one of the most dangerous and more active volcanoes of all the Eurasian tectonic plate (most of all, it has to be remarked, because it is very close to many residential areas all around its perimeter).
At the slopes of the Vesuvius, within the municipality of Ottaviano, on the northern side of the volcano, there is the Vesuvius National Park. This natural reserve has been founded in 1995, in order to fulfill a series of very specific purposes: first, preserving the territory surrounding the volcano and managing its interaction with human presence; second, preserving the animal and vegetal species settled in the area (227 and 612 respectively, according to the last survey), as well as the geological specificities; third, promoting environmental education activities, training and scientific research. The park is open to tourists and visitors: guided tours are available in Italian and in English.
There are groups of tourist that are particularly passionate with volcanoes excursions, and tend to match a visit to the Vesuvius with a second one to the Etna, located in the eastern area of Sicily. The only two active volcanoes currently present in Europe’s territory are only 600 kilometers distant from each other: they represent an unique chance to explore nature and wilderness at their utmost beauty.