At some stage in every party worth remembering someone will strike the chords of "Funiculi' Funicula'". one of Naples' most famous - and most mispronounced - songs. .
The funicular railway of the title is no longer in operation. It was closed in 1944 following the damage caused in Vesuvius' last eruption. Plans to rebuild the railway have been drawn up but lie in a drawer, awaiting approval by the Campania Regional Administration. Needless to say, work has yet to get underway. Both the railway and chairlift that carried visitors up the volcano have been closed and the area has been made into a National Park. Those wishing to view the crater up close have to walk to the top - which is possibly the best solution for all..
You can explore Vesuvius in a variety of ways. The easiest is by car. You can drive up along the lava flow left from the 1944 eruption as far as the summit car park. In high season the traffic may be heavy and it's probably better to wait until evening, although keep in mind that access to the crater closes at 18.00. The crater is a 1.5 km walk from the car park (20-30 minutes depending on your speed) then you have to pay to reach the summit area - do so, it's worth it! The crater is 500 metres wide and 160 metres deep. The inner walls are sheer and climbing is not permitted. The volcano is dormant, but the sulphur-emitting fumaroles and solidified lava, pumice and tuffs on the crater top remind us of what is bubbling beneath the apparently calm surface. Listen in silence and you'll soon hear the echoes of the rocks which continually break off the crater walls and tumble to the bottom.
You can also contact one of the local co-ops which organise guided tours of the volcano and surrounding park. The most common routes are up the eastern side of the mountain, a trek into the Valle dellInferno finishing with a walk along the Matrone da Boscotrecase road. We went through the Ossidiana Co-op (+39-081-3177116).
Study groups can gain access to the lower parts of the reserve by contacting the Forestry Department in Caserta (+39-0823-361712) while pairs or single researchers must contact the Forest Rangers in Trecase (+39-081-5372391).
If you want to see where the old funicular railway first left from then take the provincial road that goes up the mountain. Veer right at the fork in the road just after the turn off for the Vesuvian Observatory. The road stops where the must musical funicular railway in the world once started off. You can still see its route going along the side of the mountain, right up to the top. If you take a long cold look at the site you'll notice it's a bit of an eyesore, with restoration work left unfinished, but yet again there's something magical about it and you'll probably leave with your romantic soul intact.