Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk, Thursday 3 January

 

Volcano visit

Q. We would like to take my 17-year-old daughter to see a volcano, doesn't matter which one. Have you any suggestions on a small budget?

Jackie

A. You could choose Iceland - the seismological hotspot where the Eurasian tectonic plate crunches up against the North American plate - or Etna, the Sicilian volcano that rumbles and occasionally roars. But for a combination of reasonable cost and added value, I strongly recommend Europe's most notorious volcano: Vesuvius.

First, the mechanics. You can fly on easyJet from Stansted or Gatwick to Naples for less than £100 per person if you time it right. The bus into the city centre costs €3 each way. Stay for €92 a night at the B&B del Corso (bnbnapoli.it), a few minutes' walk from the Circumvesuviana terminus - for the narrow-gauge trains that rattle around the Bay of Naples. Take one of these, for a fare of €4.20 return, along to Ercolano. Outside the station there are minibuses that will take you to the car park near the summit of Vesuvius for €10 return; you might also find one of the rare public buses, which cost less.

To reach the top, you must pay an €9 admission fee (your daughter may qualify for the €5.50 child rate) into the National Park that includes the upper reaches of the volcano. Allow two hours for the climb to the lip of Vesuvius, the walk around the rim to the opposite side, plenty of photos and the descent.

Next, the experience. The power of the restless earth will amaze you: even though Vesuvius has not erupted since 1944, the crater still seethes with steam. The strata provide evidence of the eruptions that have wrought such destruction on the beautiful Bay of Naples and its people - and to witness the results, you need only descend to sea level. The populations of Pompeii and Herculaneum were wiped out by the eruption of AD79, yet their cities have been preserved. The homes, shops and temples provide a fascinating insight to life two millennia ago. You should certainly try to make the time to see them (€20 for a joint ticket, under 18s free on presentation of an EU passport).

The greatest artistic treasures from the sights were taken to the Archaeological Museum in Naples, which should be the final stop on your trip.

Even if you manage to compress everything into a two-night stay, and dine only on pizza, the trip is likely to come in at a minimum of £300 per person. But the memories will prove priceless.

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