History records the eruption of Vesuvius as resembling a pine tree, the ash shooting up to a great height in the form of a towering trunk, which then spread itself out at the top into branches; sometimes bright with cinders and fire, else dark with earth. The brooding coal-black mountain is suitably menacing, evocative names such as the Tears of Christ (the amber-coloured wine produced here) and the Valley of Hell give walking through history and nature that extra spine-tingling thrill, while moving over ancient lava flow is as close to walking on the moon as you’ll get. To stand at the crater’s rim, the occasional fumarole accompanying your view down to the barren slopes and green lowlands and out to Pompeii and the Bay of Naples, is a fittingly extravagant end to an exploration of the world’s most famous volcano.

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