Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hiking the volcano's rim

Vesuvius is the long-surviving representative of a Neapolitan family.  Dormant but still viable, it belonged to a daisy chain of volcanoes that arced around the Bay of Naples (long before Naples existed).  I live close to several craters here in Pozzuoli, including one that dependably belches sulfurous steam for the tourist trade.  The Solfatara infuses our mornings with its potent breath . . . but I've grown accustomed, if not fond, of its redolant a.m. greeting.

Another large crater was transformed by the Americans into a recreation facility for those stationed here after World War II. It is named for Admiral Robert Carney.  Still operating, and now also open to Italian membership, the private park offers an impressive array of recreational facilities.  Carney Park crater is large enough to accommodate a complex of sports fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, rustic cabins, a pool, and a golf course all nestled in its bowl.  

The wooded interior sides of the crater are crisscrossed with paths that lead up to the rim.  It's a steep ascent, steeper if you try to go straight up a rain gully (as we did last year when we didn't know about the trails).  But the effort is rewarded with a breathtaking panorama at the summit.  Spring weather inspired us to make a second ascent yesterday. Though we took the more sedate trail route this time, it was still almost one and a half hours to the summit.
  Once you reach the crest, you can't help but draw a breath of awe.  The vista encompasses the islands of Ischia and Procida (on a clear day, Capri, too); Lago d'Averno (on the bottom of which Virgil believed was the mouth of Hades);  the bay surrounded by the towns of Pozzuoli, Bacoli, and Baia; Baia Castle; and blue, blue Mediterranean to the horizon line.

We were lucky enough to surface at the site of a ruin.  Quinn and Lily spent quite a while exploring it.  A monastery, a hermit's retreat, a nobleman's scenic keep . . . we couldn't discern.  But the kids' imaginations were definitely in overdrive.

There were many chestnut shells along the path, wild cyclamen and ferns unfurling.   I thought I spotted wild fennel, but a nibble proved me wrong.  Oh well.  

But we rewarded ourselves amply after our descent with a big pizza lunch at one of our favorite places here in Pozzuoli: Zona A Pizzeria.  Jon swears the special "Zona A" pizza, featuring prosciutto, large shavings of Asiago cheese, and a healthy, post-bake sprinkling of the green rugola, is his favorite in  Italy.  
Needless to say, the potent combination of volcano hike and pizza feast led to lovely afternoon snoozes when we returned home.  A perfect way to spend a sunny primavera Saturday!

1 comment:

Reva said...

looks like a great hike. and like all great hikes, ends with some good (great!) eats...