Vesuvius is the cradle of civil engineering. Successive violent eruptions pumped out rich, thick deposits of minerals, covering the landscape, each a variation of the last. Green pumice, red pumice, brown tuff, grey tuff, ash, lava, clay; a geological Jackson Pollock. Humans flocked to the fertile soil and happily built settlements, until the volcano spat once again. But each eruption brought opportunity, and as the next pioneers walked in they fused new combinations of the earth under their feet. Ceramics and cements developed in proto-industry. Burnt limestone mixed with hot ash mixed with wet earth. Fizzing, popping, pozzolana. Reactions balanced millennia later, recipes learnt through trial and error. What the volcano gave the Romans, the Romans gave the world. Geochemical architecture. Their opus magnum: concrete.
Vesuvius spat again.
Today remnants of the industry reside under new Neapolitan masters whilst Rome rests in the north. Strung along the Hinterland like a miniature of the volcano arc are so many silos, each containing fine cement or aggregate ready to be mixed and shipped. In between sit warehouses and outlets flooded with glazed tiles, terracotta vases and paving slabs. Late antique pastiche adds a traditional flavour; a reminder of how long this market has been here. Why not purchase a solitary corinthian capital or multicoloured Christ this century?
Vesuvius has watched jealously since the end of the War. He has become redundant. They covered the landscape themselves this time. Asphalt as far as the eye can see. The irony of a post-modern volcano.
Today remnants of an industry that grew out of a volcano try to remember why they are there. The earth under their feet has fused solid. They still know the recipes, but they no longer have all the ingredients. Limestone quarries sit silent, silos filled with foreign sand. Ask for clay and you get turned away. In one quarry I visited they still cut the bedrock. Basalt, the colour of dead wood, sliced by great machines cooled with water. A fine powder flows away and is heaped in to piles of grey mud. An industrial waste product: the last fango of Vesuvio.