On September 3, 1943, the invasion of Italy by British and American forces got underway, eventually culminating in the toppling of Mussolini’s fascist regime and the liberation of the southern part of the country (in the north, the Axis powers held out until the final days of the war). The difficult terrain repeatedly brought the Allied advance to a halt, and at certain points it resulted in unprecedented challenges – such as the activity of Mount Vesuvius, to the east of Naples, between March 18 and 23, 1944.
The mountain’s most famous and destructive eruption is without a doubt the incident that took place in 79 AD, burying the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, and Stabiae under ash and tuff. Since then the active volcano has erupted multiple times – on about three dozen occasions – with varying degrees of intensity. Some of these eruptions may have been even more severe than the ancient incident: while the cities destroyed in 79 AD have so far yielded the remains of around 1500 people, the eruption of 1631 claimed more than 3000 lives in nearby settlements.
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The so-called Avellino eruption of Mount Vesuvius, erasing several Bronze Age settlements, took place in the 2nd millennium BC. It is regarded as severe as the one that destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii in 79 AD.
Mount Vesuvius produced 23 significant eruptions from 1631 to 1944.
Today nearly 3 million people live nearby Mount Vesuvius, so the volcano is considered among the most dangerous in the world.