In the Spring of 1787, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, spent a few months in Naples and was transfixed by the beauty and the horrors of the juxtaposition of an erupting Mount Vesuvius set against the serene backdrop of the Neapolitan environs. He climbed the erupting volcano three time on his visit, certainly reason was not employed as he braved smoke, ash and lava with little regard for his own safety, as his curiosity to know fueled his endeavors.
Goethe mailed home letters scorched black in Vesuvius’s heat, and he described traveling toward the mountain after an ash fall, past the confines of the thriving city into the outer suburbs and gardens where a dull gray ash coated everything in sight, as if one were leaving the zone of life for a parallel realm of the dead. He was morose upon leaving Naples, and like Voltaire before him, his soul was caught up in the scene and scenery around Vesuvius.
Here a few insightful quotes penned by Goethe during his experiences in Naples:
“The Terrible beside the Beautiful, the Beautiful beside the Terrible, cancel one another out and produce a feeling of indifference,” -Goethe
“The Neapolitan would certainly be a different creature if he did not feel himself wedged between God and the Devil.”-Goethe
“From the summit to the sea ran a streak of molten lava and glowing vapor, but everywhere else sea, earth, rock, and vegetation lay peaceful in the enchanting stillness of a fine evening, while the full moon rose from behind the mountain ridge. It was an overwhelming sight.”-Goethe