The Vesuvius National Park was established in 1991 (Law 6 December 1991, N. 394legge Framework on protected areas, art. 34). It has an area of about 8,800 hectares in the province of Naples and it involves 13 municipalities (Boscoreale, Boscotrecase, Herculaneum, Massa of Somma, Octavian, Pollena Trocchia, San Giuseppe Vesuviano, San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Sant'Anastasia, Somma Vesuvian, Terzigno, Torre del Greco, Trecase). From 1997 he entered the network of biosphere Reserves of the UNESCO program M.a.B. (Man and Biosphere).
The network of itineraries in the park is divided into 15 paths. There are different types of proposals: path-nature, trail-agricultural, trail-panoramic and path-educational.
The path N. 5 (medium difficulty) starts from Herculaneum and allows to reach, after about 3 hours, the Grand Cono: From here you can admire all the Gulf of Naples. In winter on the crater the temperature is low so it is useful to have a mountain equipment. In spring and summer sunlight is strong and adequate protections are recommended. Do not forget comfortable shoes, sunglasses, water, camera and binoculars.
Visitors with motor disabilities and sight are dedicated to the experimental trail N. 3, with a service of specialized guides, suitable artwork and educational and laboratory activities for children with disabilities. Within the park there are also 2 cycle paths.
Vesuvius, or more appropriately the Somma-Vesuvius, is a medium-sized volcano layer that reaches a maximum height of 1,281 m A.S.L. It consists of the oldest volcano of the M. Somma, whose top part sank generating a caldera, and from the most recent volcano of Vesuvius, grown inside this caldera. The image shows the qualitative reconstruction of the original profile of the ancient volcano of the sum (in red-based on the work of Ceres et al., 1999). The M. Sum is what remains of the northern flank of the old building. The volcanic activity in the area of the sum-Vesuvius dates back to at least 400,000 years ago, the age of some lavas found in perforations deep 1,345 m. The history of the volcanic apparatus Somma-Vesuvius began about 25,000 years ago. (Source: Vesuviano Observatory (INGV). (The Vesuviano Observatory, wanted by the Bourbons, is only 2 Km away from the crater. Built in the years 1841 – 1848, it is the oldest in the world.
The Sum – Vesuvius is located in the plain Bell and consists of two distinct structures: the great cone of Vesuvius and the caldera of the sum. On the big cone are present small fumaroles, sign of active rest of Vesuvius. The crater, 1,282 meters above sea level, has a diameter of about 650 meters and a depth of 230 meters. The caldera of Monte Somma has a semicircular shape and reaches its maximum height with a nose point (1132 meters A.S.L.), and represents what remains of the ancient volcano, whose activity dates back to at least 300,000 years ago. The residual interior of the ancient caldera presents a vast depression, the valley of the giant, divided into the atrium of the horse and the Valley of hell inside which lies the great cone of Vesuvius, formed in the following epoch, several times destroyed and Reconstructed from ancient and recent eruptions. The enclosure of the sum is well preserved for all its northern part; The rim of the crater is characterized by peaks called Cognoli, visible above all from the path-nature N. 2, which presents "difficulty high".
The complex has been formed by the alternation of effusive eruptions, with lava flows and products of fall, and of explosive "Plinian" eruptions, very destructive, with the emission of large quantities of ashes, and various slags, and in particular of flows pyroclastic (Blazing clouds with high density and temperature), clouds with a prevalent composition of water vapour, mud flows, also emitted by lateral and eccentric mouths.
The two volcanic bodies, Vesuvius and Monte Somma, have different environmental characteristics. The Vesuviano side is more arid, at risk of landslides; On the side of the sum which is, instead, exposed further north and therefore more fresh and humid, are prersenti mixed woods.
On the Vesuvius side there is a typical Mediterranean vegetation, formed by about 250 species. There are also more than 100 "cosmopolitan" species and about twenty "endemic" species. To remember the broom of Etna, introduced on the Vesuvius after the eruption of 1906, which in some areas (atrium of the horse and Valley of Hell), is very abundant. There are also the so-called "broom of the Carbonates", the "broom odorous". The vast scrub of broom, during the flowering in spring, make very beautiful the slopes of the volcano.
In the florid undergrowth there are the Hawthorn, the fusaggine, with poisonous fruits and bark, the smilace, a typical vine of the Mediterranean, very thorny and with red fruits, the privet and numerous families of ferns. Typical Mediterranean is the presence of mastic, Myrtle, Laurel, Phillyrea, oregano and rosemary. Between spring and summer, 23 species of wild orchids flourish.
The lava soils of Vesuvius, especially the most recent lava flows, are covered by the Stereocaulon vesuvianum, a lichen typical of this area, with a typical grey and filamentous appearance. This lichen covers entirely the lavas Vesuvian, coloring of grey. Other pioneer species, such as the Red Valerian, the Helichrysum and the Artemisia, also vegetate on the oldest streams. The southern slope of Vesuvius is rich in domestic pine; From the ' 90, however, the pinewoods began to thinning to promote the growth of the Mediterranean essences of the area, especially the Holm oak.
On the side of Monte Somma, there are vast chestnut woods, up to a height of 900 meters; Above prevail the mixed deciduous forests, with a lush undergrowth, and made up, as well as the chestnut, oak, hornbeam, manna, Neapolitan alder, various species of maple and scattered dibirch nuclei. In the areas of greater humidity in addition to tree species, there are also poplars and various species of willows.
The slopes of Vesuvius are covered by orchards and vineyards, from which some typical products of the most famous of Campania are obtained (tomatoes, apricots and wines such as the Vesuvius Doc and Lacryma Christi).
As far as wildlife is concerned, vertebrates include 2 species of amphibians, 8 species of reptiles, 138 species of birds, 29 species of mammals, while among the invertebrates were counted 44 species of diurnal moths, 8 families of Apoidei (a superfamily of Hymenoptera that groups about 20,000 species, the best known of which is the domestic bee from honey and Formicidi. The amphibians present are the emerald toad diffused at medium-low altitudes and the green frog. Among the reptiles there are the two-way, and the deer are both very rare. Among the mammals, to remember the Wild Mouse, the oak mouse, the dormouse, the Mustiolo, the Crocidura minor, the Dormouse, and the Hedgehog, present in the whole area. In the park there are also the European hare and the Wild Rabbit. Among the predators, we remember the fox and the marten, present throughout the territory, and the weasel, especially present in the side add up. The presence of birds is particularly rich; Apart from the nesting and wintering species, since the park is the only mountainous area in a vast flat region, it is a safe reference for many migrants; These include the Eater, the Marsh Hawk, the Capirossa. The nesting species are 62. There are nests of five pairs of kestrel, three-four pairs of buzzards, one-two pairs of Falco buzzard, two pairs of Sparrowhawk, and two of Pilgrim. Vesuvius in 1 day: Great Cone and Vesuviano Observatory. Vesuvius in 3 days: Herculaneum, Grand Cone, Vesuviano Observatory, Pompeii.
Art and Archaeology: Herculaneum, Oplontis, pumps, Reggia di Portici, Villa Campolieto, Villa Favorita.