Mount Vesuvius is situated close to the shore of the Gulf of Naples in the southern Italian region of Campania. The volcano is most famous for its eruption in AD 79 which led to the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum with the death of over 1,000 people in Pompeii and the remains of about 332 bodies having been found at Herculaneum. Historians have learned about the eruption from the eyewitness account of Pliny the Younger, a Roman administrator and poet.
Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards violent, explosive eruptions of the Plinian type, making it the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. There have been no eruptions since 1944, and none of the eruptions after AD 79 were as large or destructive as the Pompeian one. The volcano is closely monitored by the Osservatorio Vesuvio in Naples with extensive networks of seismic and gravimetric stations, a combination of a GPS-based geodetic array and satellite-based synthetic aperture radar to measure ground movement and by local surveys and chemical analyses of gases emitted from fumaroles. All of this is intended to track magma rising underneath the volcano. No magma has been detected within 10 km of the surface, and so the volcano is classified by the Observatory as at a Basic or Green Level.
The area around Vesuvius was officially declared a national park on June 5, 1995. The summit of Vesuvius is open to visitors and there is a small network of paths around the volcano that are maintained by the park authorities on weekends. There is access by road to within 200 metres (660 ft) of the summit (measured vertically), but thereafter access is on foot only. There is a spiral walkway around the volcano from the road to the crater.
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