After having walked 20 km in an unsuccessful attempt to climb Mount Vesuvius starting from Pompei, throughout the previous night; and another 10 km, at least, wandering around the extensive site of ancient Pompei, for the greatest part of the current day; having not slept at all for well over 30 hours… this late afternoon, I with three admirably crazy German friends, we were setting out from Pompei bound to conquer the top of the great Vesuvius Volcano, in a not so normal or customary approach.
We drove in a parallel to the coast line until the Torre Del Greco town, by the southern foot of the mountain. We then changed our direction to the north and were soon driving up the narrow, meandering road, which is the only currently open way to reach the top of the mountain. Having driven a good deal up the mountain, and around its Colle Umberto peak, we ended up at a fork-junction. We there were requested by the park’s personnel to take the right, which is a 2 km long, dead-end road, specifically laid to serve as an elongated parking lot. We drove for about half a km and fitted the car onto the first vacant spot we encountered.
From there on, what we should have done goes as follows: We should have walked back to the junction; take the other road for some 2 km, reaching its end and the upper parking area reserved only for buses and taxi drop-off’s; and, finally, proceed to the ticket office located there and pay the €10 ticket so to be allowed to get on the dirt road leading up to the lower rim of the crater.
Sure, sparing €10 is, too, a welcomed event. But the main thing here is the pleasure a trespassing operation offers in its own right. It is about the satisfaction resulting out of doing something unique: something not identical to what hundreds -if not thousands- of others do in every-day basis. It is for the sake of the adventure itself. So we instead proceeded as follows…
From that spot we parked the car, we could see the tremendous crater of Vesuvius towering steeply towards the sky, right off the road. We drew an imaginable, straight line to the summit and started following it. The first part of the ascent was very steep but rather easy. The volcanic rock ground was fairly firm and offered decent friction. Also, the composed of dead and other barely alive, pale-leafed pines sparse forest was offering branch grips for aid at the steepest parts; plus, cover from the unwished looks of the people above.
That first vegetated part of the slope soon finished. And then we found ourselves amidst the nude, crazily steep, upper slope of the crater. Besides the inclination, the composed of ash and wabbly scree ground rendered the ascent particularly fatiguing. For every step we made up, we slid down the 4/5 of it; so that every 10 meters we gained felt like 50.
At its upper part, a little below the top, the slope was intersected by the road leading from the ticket-office to the rim. We set our direction towards that part of the road in about the middle between the ticket-office and a kiosk located a bit further ahead from it, where our chances would have been greater not to get spotted. As vegetation was by then completely absent, keeping ourselves out of sight, during the last part of the way, was out of question. The best thing we could do was to keep going up as fast as possible, hoping that no one of the numerous spectators who’d stopped by the side of the road, attending us in amazement as we were strivingly -almost crawling- clambering up the erratic slope, would not be a staff of the park, nor anyone who would, for any reason, snitch us to the park’s authorities.
I made my way first, quite ahead from the others, to the road. As I was waiting for them to arrive, I got to observe the stunned reactions of the by-passers upon taking notice of my German friends coming up: like the one of those two Italian guys who exclaimed “Ma che cazzo lui sta facendo là!”
All the four of us had eventually reached the road without confronting any sort of authority who did not like that. That would have been the perfect time to make a dash up for the last part of the slope, over the road, to the upper rim of the crater; whence we could have continued on the smooth and well-out-of-anyone’s-sight way to the highest point of the mountain, at the northern half of the rim. Instead of that, though, we chose to follow the road a bit, and inspect for other, possible approaches. That was a grave mistake. As we walked past the kiosk, and were evidently examining a decent trail up the upper rim, a few meters ahead of it, its staff paid attention to what we were up to. They shouted from the distance that “it’s not allowed to go up there” and that “the park is about to close and we have to leave right away”. We complied to this request, starting on the way down to the ticket-office. But as we passed through the kiosk, the staff were like: “Hey, guys! How the hell did you come up here? Look at how you look! (We were looking like coal mine workers) Where are your tickets?” And we were like: “Ok, I see, the park’s about to close. We are leaving now.” And they were like again and again: “Show us your tickets”. And again and again were we like after every such request: “Yes, we understood. The park is closing. We are leaving. Ciao!”
As we thus ignored their request for presenting them our tickets for several times in repetition, they gave up and just watched us walking down the road to the exit. Back to the point where we first met the road, out of the kiosk’s sight, was our last chance. We had to swiftly clamber up that last part of the steep, ashy slope, and hope that nobody passes before we reach the rim, where we could easily hide and stay up there for as long as we wanted. Exploiting my legs and hands in full, in no time was I standing on the rim. Two of my companions quit after the first few meters of the climb, and were now waiting on the road. The other one did steady progress up the slope, and was at just a matter of a few steps before the purview, when the kiosk people’s car was heard driving down the road. I ran and took cover right away. The car halted, and I could peer at the kiosk guys having exited it and shouting at my friend to come down or they call the police. I remained hidden for some time, without being sure of what my friend down the slope was up to, nor whether they might have got some glimpse of me too. I finally decided that it should be rather wiser to come down too: Even if they hadn’t yet, they were surely going to notice I was missing and fetch the police.
We came down and, accompanied by the kiosk guys, we normally walked through the ticket office. We were there asked how we had come up there bypassing the gate. We explained exactly how. They only laughed in surprise and did not ask us to purchase the ticket then. I guess they appreciated and respected our hard effort to get up there how we did. So, like nothing ever happened, we set about strolling down the road to the car.