Naples Notes

Written by Harold McNeill on November 21st, 2013. Posted in Travelogue


Photo of Mount Vesuvius as the MS Nautica leaves Naples harbour just as the sun
is setting. Can you imagine the destruction if the mountain erupted today?

Part 4: Mount Vesuvius Link Here for Photos 

As the weather was clear and the mountain top clearly visible we opted to ascend Vesuvius, the infamous (in 79 AD at least) and now a tourist destination that, along with now extinct towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, now attracts million of visitors every year.

The type of pressure buildup and eventual explosion that removed the top of Vesuvius seems very like that which happened at Mount St. Helens in Washington State.  Today, Vesuvius is reported as being the most dangerous active volcano in the world. It has erupted hundreds of times over the past two thousand years, but the eruption on August 24, remains by far the most powerful.

Had the mountain been in a remote area, it would likely have remained just a footnote in history, but by completely covering two towns and killing an estimated 16,000, it is a story that is now known around the world.  With blast force of 100,000 times that of the Atomic Bomb, “Little Boy”, that leveled Hiroshima, it hurled ash over 20 miles and left a cloud that eventually circled the globe.

Pompeii, the city to south, remains the most popular tourist destination as it was here a larger section of been recovered, however, it is said that Herculaneum has been better preserved as it was buried with the pyroclastic flow rather than ash.  Another reason the sites remain so well known is that a young man, Pliny the Younger, made a commitment to his father (the Older), to make a record of the event.  Pliny’s father had been killed in the aftermath of the eruption when he and a number of other men went to the Pompeii to try and assist survivors. Today we shall see some of the effects.

As access to the mountain is rather rugged, we travelled south from Naples and then east to the base of the south section of the mountain (the taller of two peaks).  After climbing the winding road to about half the height we transferred to a hummer type vehicle for the next 100 feet before taking to the walking trails.  The final ascent of about 1000 feet winds along the western side of the mountain to the very edge of the cavernous crater that continues to spew steam.

As we are travelling at the end of the tourist season, every stop we make is surprisingly clear of other tourists, so we are able to access every nook and cranny without having to wait in line.  Along the path we meet a few others from other parts of the world and share a bottle of wine with an entertaining group of young helicopter mechanics working in Dubai and on holiday in Italy.

Our tour guide, Roberta, provided us with a constant flow of information about the mountain, the city of Naples and it’s people.  To bring life to the stories, the best guides always mix in a good portion of humour about themselves and their people.  Roberta spoke fondly of her elderly mother who attends church at least once a week, yet is still a very superstitious persons, so much so that every time she leaves her apartment on her way to church, she always has a piece of garlic tucked in her bra.

While our trip to Naples was short, the weather provided us with an opportunity to see some of the best it has to offer, including a sail past (not to close of course) of the famous Isle of Capri. Do you remember the song:

It was on the Isla of Capri, I first met her.
Under the shade of the old walnut tree.
I can still see the flowers blooming around her.
As we met on the Isle of Capri…  

Well, I can still hear Bing Crosby and later, Frank Sinata singing that song from somewhere back in my younger life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take a trip to a great many places about which I have only read about or watched on TV or the big screen.

Tomorrow we begin our trek through the Greek Islands and into Turkey as we make our way toward Cyprus and Israel.



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  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold