The Rural Territorial System of the Vesuvius-Monte Somma Complex has a total surface of 215.8 square kilometres, equal to 18% of the provincial territory.

It includes the territory of 17 Municipalities, all falling within the province of Naples, as well as the Vesuvius-Monte Somma volcanic complex, most of which falls within the Vesuvius National Park.

The Somma-Vesuvius system has two very different landscapes: the southern part, which includes the Vesuvius with a young morphology, irreducible to orderly patterns as a result of the eruptive activity over the last two millennia; and the oldest part, which corresponds to the northern slopes of Monte Somma that retain the more mature volcanic morphology, prior to the Plinian eruption of 79 AD. The landscapes of Monte Somma form the quiet, green, luxuriant facies of the volcano, with a cool and humid microclimate, the broadleaf and chestnut woods, the heroic terraces that climb the slopes up to the edge of the wood, with apricot trees and lush and untidy tree-lined gardens, which simulate an ancestral garden. The landscapes of Mount Vesuvius, instead, represent the terrible facies of the Volcano, with an irregular morphology, which still lacks an established hydrographic network. At the highest altitudes, the ecological mosaic is dominated by the presence of pioneer ecosystems that colonise the volcanic ash deposits and lava flows: lichens, scrub, holm oaks, and anthropic pine forests. Overall, according to the Regional Land Use Charter, forest and semi-natural areas cover 20% of the total area of ​​the System.

The lower slopes are home to apricot trees, tree-lined gardens and greenhouse crops, which are within an agricultural landscape that gradually becomes more fragmented near the coast, where a pervasive and disordered urban pattern can be found.

The evolutionary factors of the volcanic landscapes are many but the most important one is undoubtedly represented by the overwhelming pressure of the urban systems. In the last fifty years, the average degree of urbanisation has quintupled, going from 6 to 30% of the territorial surface of the System, and leading to an imposing annular conurbation at a very high risk, which now surrounds the volcano.

Along the terraces of Mount Vesuvius, as well as of Monte Somma, where nature does not bend to comfortable geometries, it’s easy to find yourself in plots that climb between rocks and valleys, which only the passion and stoicism of our farmers can take care of and cultivate.

Despite objective difficulties, the Somma-Vesuvius complex is among the most fertile clods on the planet and this is precisely because of its volcanic origin.

The eruption of 79 AD which destroyed Oplontis, Stabiae, Pompeii and Herculaneum, in addition to determining a new geophysical structure by changing the mountainous relief of the crater, contributed to a real regeneration of the Earth’s crust, giving it morphological and organoleptic characteristics that were destined to become unique and distinctive features of this Territory.

In the territory of the Vesuvius National Park, 230 mineral species are recorded, 62 of which are representative of this volcano, while 6 are, still today, exclusive to this locality: these data make the area one of the most interesting ones in the world. The richness of the variety of mineral species present in the Somma-Vesuvius complex is due to the different modalities of formation of the minerals themselves, which originated from effusive and explosive eruptions or from fumarolic activities.

The cultivation of this type of tomato is quite recent. Coming from Central America, it was spread amongst the Maya, Incas and Aztec people who called it “xitomatl”, a small yellow-coloured apple. The tomato was brought to Europe between 1519 and 1521 by Hernán Cortés who took care of raking and bringing the riches and treasures of the New World to Spain.

Italy, and in particular the Kingdom of Naples, which at that time was dominated by the Spanish monarchy (already with Alfonso of Aragon and then with Charles V of Habsburg), was one of the first European nations to know this type of tomato.

However, a few centuries had to pass before the “new fruit” began to be appreciated as foodstuff and only in the nineteenth century was it included in cookbooks, thus becoming, especially in the South, one of the basic products of modern cuisine, an essential ingredient for the finest chefs.

Antonio Latini (1642-1696), knight of the Marche region, mentioned this type of tomato for the first time in his “Scalco alla Moderna” published in Naples in 1694 in a gastronomic treatise with just one vegetable stew recipe.

Francesco Gaudenzio (1648-1733), chef of the Jesuits, in the “Panonto toscano” written in 1705, suggested frying mixed vegetables with peeled and chopped tomatoes in a pan.

The botanist-gastronome Vincenzo Corrado (1734-1836), in his “Cuoco gallante” published for the first time in Naples in 1773, described these tomatoes as saffron-coloured “fruits”. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), after his stay in Naples, in 1835 described various types of pizza, almost all still “in white”: with oil and garlic, with small fish and, finally, with tomatoes. The tomato conquered pizza.

Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Bonvicino (1787-1859), in his “Cucina teorico pratica” published in 1839, talked about vermicelli with tomatoes for the first time, or in the Neapolitan dialect, i vermicielli co’ le pommodore. The tomato married pasta.

The famous recipe of Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) of Genovese ravioli with tomato sauce was published in 1840.
And this is probably when the cultivation of tomatoes spread in the lands of the Somma-Vesuvius complex, as well as the peasant knowledge on the forms of farming, but also on the product use and conservation developed.

Already in the mid-19th century, studies conducted by Achille Bruni, Professor of Agriculture at the Royal Higher School of Agriculture in Portici, documented the Vesuvian production of cherry tomatoes that “remain excellent until spring, provided they are tied in wreaths and suspended from attics” (Bruni, “Vegetables and their cultivation in the city of Naples”, 1858).

Indeed, the ecotype grown on Mount Vesuvius can be naturally preserved until the spring following the harvest thanks to its maturity on a drained soil, which is rich in minerality and has little water, as well as its leathery skin.

As always happened with vegetables for family use, the farmers chose the fruits they considered the most suitable ones and collected their seeds, which were used for planting the vegetable the following year. As a result, in the first half of the 1900s the “Fiaschella”, “Lampadina”, “Principe Borghese”, “Re Umberto” and “Patanara” tomatoes, from which the current ecotypes derive, were already known and widespread.

Until the 1970s, from the month of July all peasant villages in the municipalities surrounding Mount Vesuvius hang piennoli of the tomatoes under the porch with a simple method of weaving the fruits gathered in bunches around a string, almost like stringing pearls on a necklace.

Those were the years when the refrigerator was not yet present in all homes and, where it was, it was used only in summer to keep everyday foods and drinks fresh. Here ancient knowledge still dominated the culture and not just the working-class one. Even food preservation was based on traditional methods. The Vesuvian tomato, characterised by a pointed tip and harvested ahead of its ripeness, dry and with an armoured skin, was hung in a ventilated place to be consumed in the winter months.

Finally, the Vesuvian families, are used to preparing the traditional and centuries-old typical preserves called a pacchetelle, characterised by a manual process, strongly linked to the Vesuvian territory, which has been handed down over time and which still takes place today using the unpeeled Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio, cut lengthwise in half or in wedges (or filetti) and preserved in a glass jar.

Between the ‘80s and the ‘90s, when many families abandoned the countryside, among processes of globalisation and homologation, many crops of the Vesuvian countryside more than halved and some completely disappeared.

Among these, the tomato also suffered a setback and then, fortunately, it started to be planted again from the early years of the new millennium. And it’s thanks to the Consortium that it’s been possible to save an ecotype that claims its own origin and identity.

Mount Vesuvius: the strength and wealth of our agriculture.

The morphology of the soils is the typical one found along the slopes of the Vesuvian cone and is characterised by a sandy texture, which makes the soils very loose and drained. The soils have on average a neutral or sub-alkaline reaction and a good supply of assimilable macro and microelements, which are located along the steep slopes of the volcanic complex. They have been terraced and have a flat or slightly steep position.

The climate during the growing season is mainly dry, with moderate winds, high maximum temperatures, large temperature variations between night and day and high levels of insolation. This contributes to a natural control of parasitic diseases, especially cryptogamic ones.

The environmental impact is such that the same tomato ecotypes, if grown outside the typical area, provide fruits with significantly different qualities than the protected ones.

The tomato, stored in piennoli or in preserves, is one of the oldest and most typical products of the Vesuvian area. The first documented and technically detailed evidence on the presence and use of this type of tomato in the Vesuvian area can be traced back to the publications of Paride Palmieri, Francesco De Rosa and Marzio Cozzolino, professors of the Royal Higher School of Agriculture in Portici (Naples), respectively from 1885, 1902 and 1916.

In the past centuries, the cultivation of this type of tomato had established itself both for its reduced cultivation requirements and for being a long-life product in the winter months, by virtue of the consistency of its peel, the attachment strength to the peduncle and its high content of soluble solids. The ancient distribution of this type of preserved tomato was in fact linked to the need to have fresh tomatoes in the winter months to prepare typical dishes of the Neapolitan area, including pizzas and main courses, which required intense flavours and fragrances.

The human factor, represented by the development of a well-calibrated cultivation and conservation method that is typical of the area, combined with the particular environmental framework of the Vesuvian area, the result of the optimal insolation, the dry climate and above all the extraordinary pyroclastic nature of the soils, have led to a one-of-a-kind product, for organoleptic value and shelf life, which is still cultivated and preserved today.

The production area of our DOP is represented by 17 Municipalities that are part of the Rural Territorial System of the Vesuvius-Monte Somma Complex, covering the entire surface of the Vesuvius National Park.

In particular, the area includes the following Municipalities:

  • Boscoreale, 
  • Boscotrecase, 
  • Cercola, 
  • Ercolano, 
  • Massa Di Somma, 
  • Ottaviano, 
  • Pollena Trocchia, 
  • Portici, 
  • Sant’Anastasia, 
  • San Giorgio a Cremano, 
  • San Giuseppe Vesuviano, 
  • San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, 
  • Somma Vesuviana, 
  • Terzigno, Torre Annunziata, 
  • Torre del Greco, 
  • Trecase, 
  • Piazzola di Nola (administered by the Municipality of Nola, but geographically enclosed between the countryside of Somma Vesuviana and Ottaviano).