Following on from my ramblings about life working in Italy not going as well as I’d hoped, P and I had a wonderful day yesterday hiking around the Vesuvius National Park. This magnificent park (opened in 1995) is centered on the volcano, Mount Vesuvius, in the province of Naples, Italy. Together we (almost) climbed up the 1,132m of Mount Somma, an integral part of the volcanic complex “Somma-Vesuvius”. Mount Somma is basically the remnant of a large volcano, out of which the peak cone of Mount Vesuvius has grown. Hiking Mount Somma is NOT the same as hiking up Vesuvius- one reason is that to hike up Vesuvius you must buy a ticket. Mount Somma is part of the national park and therefore a great activity for budget travellers (and anyone who loves nature!).
We weren’t exactly sure what we were doing but after a student told me that he’d hiked from Pollena, we decided we’d give it a try. We took the circumvesuviana from Somma to Pollena, a very quaint and pretty village which at times had me forgetting which country I was in!
We could see Mount Somma (which at the time, we thought was Vesuvius!) so walked in that general direction. The sunshine was glorious and for the first time in almost 3 months, I stopped thinking about work and remembered I was living abroad- in Italy- with P, and spending my weekend hiking up a mountain. For free. What was I complaining about again?
The walk started off easily enough, we chatted to a few farmers along the way who told us we definitely couldn’t go this way- but P didn’t care and said we might as well try. So try we did! The trail was pretty messy, and it wasn’t long before we realised we weren’t really walking on any actual trail. The National Park has 9 trails for you to choose from, which you could can find out about by clicking here and here.
Nevertheless we persevered for about an hour until we got to a lovely spot to stop for a picnic. After a quick lunch and a pee (with me yelling at P not to turn around) we continued the hike onwards and upwards.
I absolutely loved the quietness, the stillness. The fresh air in my lungs, the beautiful views all around. Most of all I loved being alone with P and on an adventure together. After a good few hours we found ourselves stuck at a dead end. A load of trees had fallen down and were crossing the trail (our made up trail anyway) but a man nearby heard us and walked over. He was carrying a massive scythe and I could see his blue van parked very far back down the mountain. I worried for a second that he was some crazy lunatic and he was gonna murder us and throw us in the back of his van. Of course he was a normal guy and told us we’d need a scythe in order to get by walking as we are. He gave us directions and told us another 10 minutes or so and we can get to one of the National Park trails, trail number 3.
The 10 minutes was more like 40, and very uphill, but we made it! We sat for a little while and again enjoyed the stillness of nature. P reminded me that we should be grateful for living so close to such a beautiful place, and also for having legs and feet which allow us to walk in it. Sometimes we get so caught up in stress and work we forget the simple greatness of being able to walk.
At around 18:30 we realised there wouldn’t be enough time to make it right to the top of Mount Somma (which is where trail 3 takes you) but on the bright side, the trail also led down to Somma Veuviana, allowing us to make it home easily. The bad news was, it was a reeeeeeeeeally long path and then road downhill*. It was actually harder and more strenuous for me to walk down than it was going up. Also I was beginning to get tired and a little fed up. We’d been hiking now for around 5 hours and I wanted to go home and take a hot shower. I kept telling P, “I’ve reached my limit”, and “The Park Ranger can come and pick us up” – I really thought I couldn’t walk another step, my thighs and feet were killing me, but after another 2 hours…. we were home.
*Miscellaneous info: this long path/road was or even is used by worshipers. They start in Ercolano and end up in Somma Vesuvius at Madonna di Castello – which you can do too.
I cooked us a delicious chicken roast dinner, took a great shower (although I’d have liked a bath) and fell blissfully to sleep. Today my body aches a lot but I’m not working til 5, happy days! You could say that I’ve started (at least a little) to restore my balance. I don’t dislike my town as much anymore- see, if you get out and go explore, you might just find something amazing. I had no idea a National Park was basically in my back garden.
If you’re in the area, definitely put a hiking trail in the National Park on your inventory. One of the trails, in fact, can take you around the mountain and towards Vesuvius (the volcano) as opposed to taking the bus from another town. Last time I was here, I took a bus (more like a jeep) from Pompei up to Vesuvius. Though it was pleasant to drive through the park, hiking it was a thousand times better!
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