Mount Vesuvius is on fire and local residents have been evacuated as firefighters attempt to tackle multiple blazes.
Huge clouds of smoke blew over nearby Naples and surrounding areas, prompting fears that the volcano was erupting.
However, it has since been confirmed that the cause is a series of surface fires that have devastated acres of woodland in the area.
Firefighters battling the blazes have struggled to bring it under control as it tears through dry, wooded areas.
Officials fear the fire could spread to landfill sites on the slopes of the volcano, potentially resulting in huge plumes of toxic smoke being sent drifting across the city.
Police said they believe the fires are the result of human activity but have not confirmed whether they were deliberately started.
A number of separate fires are burning independently of each other.
While roads to the volcano remain open, tourists have been warned to stay away and a number of local people evacuated from their homes.
The volcano is famous for its eruption in 79AD, which covered the nearby towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash and molten lava, killing thousands.
It last erupted in 1944 but the most recent eruption of any magnitude occurred in 1631, when 6,000 people were killed.
Last year Italian authorities put in place an emergency plan to evacuate 700,000 people from the area around Vesuvius in the case of a significant eruption.
“We have to equip ourselves to be prepared,” regional president Vincenzo De Luca said at the time. “Mount Vesuvius is a problem of gigantic proportions.”
There are no signs of an imminent eruption but, because Vesuvius is an active volcano, scientists say it is only a matter of time before it erupts again.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies