Vesuvius is a sight of rare beauty in the landscape of the Gulf. A famous picture postcard image taken from the hill of Posillipo did get right in the collective imagination of the city of Naples, though it is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, forgotten until their accidental rediscovery in the 18th century. The eruption also changed the course of the Sarno River and raised the sea beach, so that Pompeii was now neither on the river nor adjacent to the coast. Vesuvius itself underwent major changes: its slopes were denuded of vegetation and its summit changed considerably due to the force of the eruption.
Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is today 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 explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. The area around Vesuvius was officially declared a national park on 5 June 1995 for the great interest in geology, biology and history that its territory is. Agricultural production has a unique variety of flavors and originality. The summit of Vesuvius is open to visitors and there is a small network of paths around the mountain 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 mountain from the road to the crater.