The Vesuvius Observatory was founded in 1841 under Fernando II to keep an eye on the active volcanoes near Naples.
Although Mount Vesuvius is the obvious threat, having destroyed the area in a massive eruption in 79 AD, taking out the nearby Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the entire area surrounding Naples is a volcanic hotspot. The island volcano of Ischia and the Campi Flegrei both present additional threats to the local area.
The observatory has witnessed and survived many eruptions, including one in March 1944, which destroyed the villages of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma, Ottaviano, and part of San Giorgio a Cremano. It operates today under the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).
A small museum including antique scientific instruments is open to visitors.