Have you ever received a card from Naples?
Probably it represents the beautiful gulf of Naples with the Vesuvius towering on the background. In fact this volcano has always been the icon of our city and part of the history, life, geography of the city and its surroundings since ancient times. Not to talk of the food because of the delicious fruits of the fertile volcanic earth. Nowadays it is the only active volcano of continental Europe together with the Sicilian Etna.
The Vesuvius stands with its 1281 meters of height within an external cone, Mount Somma and is surrounded by a national park set up in 1995 as an environmental protection. It also boasts a seismic observatory still operating, which is the oldest one in the world since it was founded by king Ferdinando II Borbone in 1841.
All this puts the Vesuvius among the most famous Neapolitan tourist attractions. But it has been so in the past as well. From 1880 to 1944 a cable railway took tourists up to the Volcano inspiring the composition of a song become famous all over the world: Funiculì Funiculà. The Vesuvius has been described by writers as Leopardi, Goethe, Boccaccio, Virgilio, Plinio il Vecchio, but its eruptions have also caused the death of thousands of people. The last one was in 1944 whereas others took place in 1906, 1631 back to the most famous one in 79 A.D. It was the one that destroyed Pompei, Ercolano and Stabiae burying the cities and their inhabitants with ashes, lapillus and lava flows. But this enormous tragedy and the sacrifice of our ancestors has given us and future generations the gift of remains and relics perfectly preserved to admire and study. This eruption keeps fascinating and interesting everybody so much so that the London British Museum has recently organized an important exhibition. The Vesuvius is part of the past and the present of our city and even if it is still active nobody fears it but rather considers it an old gigantic friend sitting placidly on the background of Naples, surrounded by smaller towns and looking patiently at our frenetic lives.