After our morning in Pompeii, we wanted to check out Mount Vesuvius. You can drive up most of the way and then hike 20-30 minutes up to the crater. It was a bit farther than I thought it would be, and the switchback roads up the mountain took awhile – mostly given to the fact that I was dodging both cyclists and large tour buses. We were warned by our guide that we should go to the more expensive parking, so that our car and belongings would be secure, so we were aiming to make it to the top.
At some point during our drive, we reached a check point where they informed us that the parking at the top was full and that we would need to pay 3 euros and park there. They said it was only 20 minutes to walk up from this point. I asked if it was secure, but it was clear they barely spoke English, so I paid the money and pulled onto a side road. I expected a parking lot, but instead found cars parked along the side of the road. We were told we could park within the white lines, so we started driving looking for a place.
I am not kidding when I tell you that we drove AT LEAST two miles DOWN the mountain without finding a spot. Just before reaching what looked to be a snack bar and a dead end, we found a couple of spots. But, by that time, I already decided we weren’t parking there. We would waste so much time walking up the mountain, and I wanted to get to Sorrento to enjoy our afternoon at the pool! (Priorities!!)
So, I turned around and drove back to the original check point. I explained to the money collector and a couple of policemen that there were no spots. (I didn’t specify that there were no spots I was willing to take, but could they seriously expect people to be okay with parking so far away?!) They explained I had to drive all the way down, but I just kept repeating that there were no spots. They decided they would escort me down the mountain again to show me where to park. I let the two officers get into their car and wedge themselves between the chaotic traffic jam until I knew they couldn’t easily turnaround, and then I headed up the mountain.
[As an aside, I was inspired to do this after friends experienced a similar checkpoint on their way to hike in a nearby town in Switzerland earlier this summer. When they arrived to the “full” parking lot, they found plenty of spots.]
As expected, when I got to the top, there was parking for AT LEAST twenty more cars! I parked the car and headed up to the entrance to the crater. But of course, it couldn’t be that easy. When we got to the entrance, they informed us that we needed to buy our tickets 800 meters down the mountain at the ticket office. I told my friend to wait, and I would go take care of it. As I was walking down the mountain and past my rental car, the police car with the two officers was coming up the mountain with its lights on! I tried not to panic (and I definitely didn’t make eye contact), and they drove right by me and my car! (These cops get a big, fat F for being observant!) I bought the tickets, walked past the police car with lights on going the opposite direction, and made my way to the entrance.
We climbed up to the crater, which was quite steep. But how cool to be at the top of a volcano (that has potential to explode again someday…it’s last explosion was during WWII)!
We thought they would be waiting for us on our way down the mountain, but their was no ticket on our car, no police car at the checkpoint, and no one paying attention to the cars driving down the mountain. Looks like we got away!
The views from our room in Sorrento did not disappoint! Mount Vesuvius looks even bigger from this direction than it did from Pompeii!
[We were even greeted with NESCAFÉ in our hotel room, which made me proud!]