Witness the destruction wrought by Mt. Vesuvius nearly 2,000 year ago at the archaeological site of Pompeii. The ancient village was frozen in time beneath a blanket of hot ash during an eruption in 79 C.E. Among the ruins that have been uncovered are buildings that shed light on aspects of ancient life both grand and mundane, from the temples, the coliseum and homes with fine frescoes, to public baths, chariot-rutted streets and grain stores which now hold plaster casts of the people who perished that fateful day.
Various tour companies from Rome and Naples will easily take you to a well-maintained gravel pathway at the foot of Vesuvius, and up you go. After a relatively short climb, a huge crater — still slightly smoking, an unnerving sight — greets you at the top, where you can catch your breath while you overlook the blue waters of the Bay of Naples. On a clear day, you can see the island of Capri and the edge of the Amalfi Coast.
When the volcano erupted, the mountain had been three times as tall and the devastation was that much more widespread. Standing at the summit, gazing down at the city that remains so close by, the Roman history of this place doesn't feel so distant. Being on Vesuvius makes it easier to imagine what that day in 79 A.D. must have been like. If nothing else, the experience is certainly an eye-opener.