I was fortunate to be able to interview Lucia Pappalardo and Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo, of the Naples Vesuvius Observatory, for my upcoming volcano scientists book. They took me to visit a recently discovered bronze-age archaeological site discovered in Nola, a town near Naples. The village was buried nearly 4,000 years ago in an eruption of much greater magnitude than the one that buried Pompeii in 79 A.D.
They say that it should serve as a warning that a similarly catastrophic eruption could happen again. In fact, Giuseppe said that the chances of another eruption occurring in the coming year is around 50%. It would not necessarily be as big as the Bronze Age Avellinian catastrophe, but he did note that the most recent large eruptions have occurred in 2,000 year cycles.
They have criticized the civil authorities for not coming up with a plan to evacuate the 3 million people living in the area in the event of a similar eruption. This has obviously not endeared them to the developers, politicians, and civil authorities who have reasons (none of them scientific) for downplaying the risk of such a catastrophe.
Their paper was published in 2006 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; you can read it online.
Anyway, it was a great interview; they were both charming and generous with their time. I wish I could meet all of my profile subjects in person. (Not to mention visit all of the volcano sites!)