“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” Greg Child
Why This Mountain?
The reason I picked Southern Italy as a destination was two-fold. I wanted to see Stromboli which is on my list of National Geographic’s Top 50 Adventures. I also wanted to see the Amalfi Coast, which is on my bucket list. Pompeii is also on my bucket list and I will get an opportunity to do a day tour when I am in Naples. The three big volcanoes in Italy (Vesuvius, Stromboli, and Etna) are all active and not always open to hike. Therefore, I have plan a crazy travel schedule in the hope that I can bag at least one peak. Also, when I went to get research facts for these three volcanoes, Mt. Etna had my favorite website listing yet: Open 9:30 – 5:30pm when not erupting in a life threatening way!
Mountain & Route Facts
Mount Vesuvius: a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure.
Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. More than 1,000 people died in the eruption, but exact numbers are unknown. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus.
Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards violent, explosive eruptions of the Plinian type, making it the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.
The only at to reach the top of Vesuvius is to book through a private tour. I will be seeing this mountain and Pompeii the same day.
Stromboli: a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of the three active volcanoes in Italy. It is one of the eight Aeolian Islands, a volcanic arc north of Sicily. The island’s population is about 500.
The volcano has erupted many times and is constantly active with minor eruptions, often visible from many points on the island and from the surrounding sea, giving rise to the island’s nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”. The most recent major eruption was on 13 April 2009. There are three active craters at the peak. A significant geological feature of the volcano is the Sciara del Fuoco (“Stream of fire”), a big horseshoe-shaped depression generated in the last 13,000 years by several collapses on the northwestern side of the cone.
The only way to visit the volcano is by a guided tour. The only way to reach the island at this time of year is on an overnight boat ride.
Mount Etna: an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high, though this varies with summit eruptions. It is the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. The highest point is Bocca Subterminale di Nord Est (north eastern crater).
In Greek Mythology, the deadly monster Typhon was trapped under this mountain by Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder and king of gods, and the forges of Hephaestus were said to also be located underneath it.
Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The best way to reach Etna is to fly into Catania. There is one bus that runs to the mountain in the morning and returns in the afternoon. There is a funicular that runs partially up the mountain. The southern route trailhead begins at Rifugio Sapienza.
Historical and Cultural Information
Italy is another one of those places where I could write a book on the history. It is one of my favorite historical cultures. Officially known as the Italian Republic, it is a unitary parliamentary republic in Europe. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and Vatican City. Due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as lo Stivale (the Boot). With 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth most populous EU member state.
Since classical times, ancient Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks established settlements in the south of Italy, with Etruscans and Celts inhabiting the centre and north of Italy respectively and various different ancient Italian tribes and Italic peoples dispersed throughout the Italian Peninsula and insular Italy. The Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom, which eventually became a republic that conquered and assimilated other nearby civilisations. Rome ultimately emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean basin, conquering much of the ancient world and becoming the leading cultural, political and religious centre of Western civilisation. The legacy of the Roman Empire is widespread and can be observed in the global distribution of civilian law, republican governments, Christianity and the Latin script. Perhaps the most famous period of Roman history was the period of Julius Caesar. The great-nephew and adopted son of Caesar, Augustus, became the first emperor in 27 BC. There would be about ninety more emperors until the last emperor, Romulus, in 476 AD which was the fall of the Western Empire when it was overthrown by German Barbarians.
During the Middle Ages, Italy suffered sociopolitical collapse amid calamitous barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century numerous rival city-states and maritime republics rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking, laying down the groundwork for modern capitalism. The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science, exploration and art. Italian culture flourished at this time, producing famous scholars, artists and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Italian explorers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery.
Nevertheless, Italy’s commercial and political power significantly waned with the opening of the Atlantic trade route and the route to the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope, which bypassed the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the Italian city-states constantly engaged one another in bloody warfare, culminating in the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries that left them exhausted, with no one emerging as a dominant power. The weakened sovereigns soon fell victim to conquest by European powers such as France, Spain and Austria.
By the mid-19th century, a rising movement in support of Italian nationalism and independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval known as the Risorgimento, which sought the formation of a unified nation-state. After various unsuccessful attempts, the Italian Wars of Independence and the Expedition of the Thousand resulted in the eventual unification of the country in 1861, now a great power after centuries of foreign domination and political division. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the new Kingdom of Italy rapidly industrialised, although mainly in the north, and acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained largely impoverished and excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the main victors in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading the way to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in 1922. The subsequent participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction and an Italian civil war. Following the liberation of Italy and the rise of the resistance, the country abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom and, despite periods of sociopolitical turmoil (e.g. Anni di piombo, Mani pulite, the Second Mafia War, the Maxi Trial and subsequent assassinations of anti-mafia officials), became a major developed country.