Our route from Florence to Sorrento took us right past Vesuvius, so we decided to drive up and walk around the crater. It seemed only proper to become better acquainted with the destructive blowhole of the earth before touring the evidence of its power at the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum the next day.
After wiggling up the umpteenth snake-track road of our trip, we tumbled out of our car into the blindingly bright and rather crowded red pumice parking lot, wobbling slightly on our poor, ever-cramped legs. We relinquished the requisite several euros a person before beginning to trudge up the sloping path to the crater. I know it may sound a bit overstated by now, but it was hot. However, it wasn’t humid, so sweating actually did produce a cooling effect – a phenomenon quite novel and delightful to my Southeastern North Carolinian self. Effective sweating? What? A new experience every day – or every climb up Vesuvius, as the case may be – I guess.
Skirting quickly around several huts of overpriced food, water, and cheap souvenirs and their accompanying clouds of cigarette smoke, we at last reached the nearly perfectly round crater. Its jagged edges stuck up here and there but otherwise the sides plunged straight down to the fine gravel-filled bottom, complete with hardy grass tufts. I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of steam or smoke or heat emanating from the depths, though I probably would have been alarmed if there had been any. Nevertheless, it was easy to imagine the sudden and devastating power of Vesuvius, especially with the millions of people spread out below in their uneven lines of apartment buildings between endless terraces of grapes and olive trees. Yipes.
Halted by a “no entry” sign about a third of the way around the crater, we turned for the parking lot. On the way down Dad discussed travel, work, the benefits and disadvantages of masters and doctoral degrees, being an expat, and governmental changes with a man from South Africa. He and his family were just finishing their week or so in Sorrento and stated that Vesuvius was shockingly humid for their dry South African summer sensibilities. Ah, the people you meet.
We drove straight from Vesuvius to our place in Sorrento. I say place because it was neither a hotel nor an apartment nor a hostel, really. They called it “The Neffola Residence.” In reality it was a restored and updated building built in the last few years BC, complete with a kitchenette for each little apartment, surrounded by a mixed orchard, just down from a campground with both tents and cabins, and somehow connected to a restaurant, pizzeria, and swimming pool beyond the campground. Strange. We enjoyed our three days there, though.