Well known to Roman emperors which here had their luxury palaces, Campi Flegrei offers, in a few kilometres, a mix of beauty which covers a whole range of different experiences and proposals: steamy and desolated craters, luxuriant vineyard, strands, hills, lakes, thermal water, mysterious caves, ancient cities completely submerged by the sea because of bradyseism’s effect, one of the most important archaeological Italian museum, and then the monuments of Puteoli (the famous roman port), Baia, Miseno (the location of roman navy ) and Cuma, the oldest Greek settlement in Europe, sacred to Apollo and famous because of Sibilla, the oracle who predicted to the hero Enea, the future of Rome.
Archeology and History
This unforgettable monument which strikes the imagination with its impressiveness is situated in Bacoli, up an hill facing the sea.
Entirely carved in the tuff, the Piscina Mirabilis (Amazing Pool) was the terminal point of the Serino aqueduct and supplied water to the Fleet of Misenum. Measuring 70 x25 metres and 15 m high, with barrel vaults resting on 48 giant cruciform pillars, the reservoir looks like an underground cathedral with suggestive, magical blades of light filtering through the openings in the central vault, arranged for the hydraulic engines which raised water.
Castled on a headland, Rione Terra is the ancient Greek settlement which gave life to the city of Pozzuoli. Until the evacuation happened on 1970, this small district has always been an important centre for urban life, so during the ages, it has been completely transformed by absorbing the ancient buildings into the new.
Today Rione Terra is an important and impressive attraction which, in its peculiar architecture, merge up than two-thousand years of History.
Blood dripping into the sand, thunderous applauses and arms raised in triumph: all images which, for centuries, have characterized this impressive amphitheatre (the third largest in Roman Italy) built by the Imperial colony of Puteoli under the reign of Vespasian (69-79 A.D.) and destined to gladiator fights, animal hunts and public executions.
Measuring 153 metres by 121, and articulated in elevation on three storeys , it is remarkable for the well preserved arena and for the subterranean structure with a sophisticated system of changing rooms, cells for wild animals and remains of mechanical trapdoors and elevators.
The Temple of Serapis (Macellum)
Known also with the name of Temple of Serapis, due to the discovery of a statue of this Egyptian god, the building was a monumental market of Roman Puteoli town, lavishly decorated with statues and coloured marbles.
Built near the sea at the beginning of 2nd century A.D., it had two storeys and over a porticoed courtyard extended rows of shops. In the centre of the square is a tholos, that is a circular podium once covered by a conic roof supported by sixteen columns of African marble.
A shrine with an apse was on the main axis and the surviving three large columns of its portico, pierced by marine molluscs, demonstrate that during the Middle age the bradyseism brought the monument under the sea.
Castle of Baia
Situated in a commanding position on cliff’s edge above the sea, the Aragonese castle overlooks the gulf of Pozzuoli and offers amazing views from its walls. This huge fortress, erected in 1495 as a defence against a possible French invasion, sits on the ruins of a Roman villa belonged to Julius Caesar.
Damaged by Monte Nuovo eruption (1538), the castle was later enlarged by Spanish viceroy Don Pedro Alvarez de Toledo. It has been a Military Orphanage during the last century and since 1993 houses the Archaeological Museum of the Phlegraean Fields.
Archaeological Park of Baia
Located behind the tourist harbour into a terraced hill on several levels, in an arrangement which opened out onto the vast horizon of the sea, this colossal complex of buildings is believed by some scholars to have been an imperial palace. The monumental area includes patrician villas, an imperial palace, a series of spa and a superb dome-covered hall known as “Temple of Mercury”.
Not far, outside the archaeological park, are two other domes called “Temple of Venus” and “Temple of Diana”. All these structures became prototypes and patterns for other buildings of the Roman world.
Archaeological Museum of the Phlegraean Fields
Opened in 1993, is one of the most important Italian archaeological museums because its collections include findings brought here from five different ancient Phlegraean cities (Cumae, Puteoli, Baiae, Misenum and Liternum).
Among the many highlights are remarkable the reconstruction of the submerged nymphaeum of Baiae, the façade of the Shrine of the Augustales from Misenum, the Roman plaster casts of celebrated Greek statues (a finding unique in the world) and the architectural painted decoration of a Samnitic temple dated to the 4th century B.C.
Built on a little island on the Fusaro lake, the Royal “Casina Vanvitelliana” was committed to the famous architect Luigi Vanvitelli by bourbon sovereign, which used it as hunting pavilion.
Growing in one of the most romantic places of Phlaegrean Fields, the building, linked to the drye land by a little wood bridge, can be considered a jewel of ‘700th architecture.
An ancient, famous dead city where history, myth and legend cross their path. Cumae was the oldest Greek settlement in the west Mediterranean and fought against the Etruscans. Conquered by the Samnites, was later a loyal Roman city and became a storm-proof fortress during the Byzantine era, then, in 1207, was destroyed and abandoned.
The city, sacred to Apollo and his prophetess, the Sibyl, is now an archaeological park including the acropolis overlooking the sea and the lower city.
In a verdant setting ancient walls, temples and tunnels, roads, houses and baths can be seen. Outside the walls of the city is the amphitheatre dated to the end of the 2nd century B.C.
Discovered in the 1930’s this trapezoidal passageway 131 metres long and 5 metres high, is the most famous monument of Cumae.
Dug out in the tuff rock and similar to a cave described by Virgil in the book VI of Aeneid, for many years was believed to be the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl, the mysterious and powerful priestess of Apollo which wrote the Sibylline Oracles and revealed the glorious future of Rome to Aeneas.
Recent studies instead, suggest a military function: this tunnel, carved in Hellenistic age, was part of a network of underground routes.
The ruins of a mysterious, artificial island characterize the undersea scenery off Lake Lucrino, where a hot spring rises from the seabed.
Twenty-eight giant pillars, arranged in an area of 75×155 metres supported a platform occupied by the thermal baths complex of Marcus Licinius Crassus Frugi, consul in 64 A.D. Called “Calypso Island” by Philostratus, in the 3rd century A.D., this silent witness of the mighty of Rome exhibit a rich marine life among volcanic fumaroles and continuos emissions of hot bubbles.
The Underwater Archaeological Park of Baia is an amazing place, scattered of impressive Roman ruins belonging to the coastal quarters of the most famous ancient thermal city.
In the mirror of water dominated by Punta Epitaffio promontory, are visible a paved road, the magnificent nymphaeum of Emperor Claudius, a refined thermal baths complex and the huge, extraordinary villa of Calpurnii Pisones, entirely rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian with great architectural originality.
Not far, the ruins of another villa (Villa a Protiro) and a canal which connected the ancient (now disapperared) Lake of Baia with the sea can be seen.
The underwather natural reserve called Gaiola, is one of the most fascinating and unknown places of Naples. This short stretch of coast, enclosed in a little bay near the hill of Posillipo, offer an important archaeological, and natural heritage.
The ruins of ancient roman villas, docks and fish arms, lie on the sea bottom hosting several colourful marine species. Because of some environmental features, this area are has a peculiar flora and fauna, which make it unique in the whole Mediterranean Sea.
Nature and Volcanoes
Born from fire and (as legend says) meeting place for witches and sorcerers, this crater was for centuries a royal hunting preserve and now is managed by the WWF which organizes guided walking tours.
Covered by a magnificent wood and characterized by three hillocks and a lake (almost disappeared others two ponds), this site offers the curious phenomenon of the inversion of vegetation due to its particular micro-climate. Plants normally found at an altitude of 500 m, here grow at the level of the crater floor.
Known also as Dead Sea for its calm and shallow waters, is a site not to miss in Bacoli, because offers a splendid jogging trail with stunning views all around. During the Roman age this coastal lake was the inner basin of the naval harbour of Misenum, connected with the outer bay by a canal.
Disappeared the ancient shipyards, survives the fascination of the landscape: a stroll in the Public Gardens on the northern shore gives a nice view of Cape Miseno, part of an old crater rising from the sea and linked, for its name, to the memory of a hero coming from Troy.
It is a beautiful, circular lake occupying the crater of an extinct volcano considered, in Antiquity, as an entrance to Hades, the Underworld.
The name derives from the Greek word “aornos”, meaning “without birds”, alluding to the disappeared, noxious fumes which killed all birds that attempted to fly over its motionless, dark waters.
At the time of Augustus, during the civil war against Sextus Pompeius, the Avernus was connected to the Lucrino Lake and the sea, and became a part of a naval base known as Portus Jiulius Around the lake are still visible two Roman tunnels and a thermal bath complex (the so-called Temple of Apollo) which had the second biggest dome of the Roman world.
Well known for its striking contrast of luxuriant vegetation and desolate, lunar white ground strewn with fumaroles and boiling mud pools, this dormant volcano near Pozzuoli town derives the name from the Latin Sulpha terra, which means sulfur ground.
Now the crater is a tourist attraction, but in the past its rich mineral deposits of sulfur, alum and kaolin have been broadly exploited as the vapours, used for medical purposes since Roman time, when this spot was called Forum Vulcani or Vulcan Square.
A strange sensation that visitors receive here comes from the soil, which sounds hollow when any person walks over it.
Born in a single night (29th September 1538) and created by a furious eruption which destroyed the village of Tripergole, damaged Pozzuoli town and filled up a considerable part of Lake Lucrino, the verdant, volcanic cone of Monte Nuovo (“New Mountain”) is the youngest mountain in Europe.
From the top of its 134 metres offers an enchanting view on the gulf of Pozzuoli.
Entirely covered with pines and Mediterranean shrubs, now is a Natural Oasis and an evidence of how volcanic action could suddenly transform the local landscape.
Cuma Regional Forest
Located between the acropolis of Cumae and the sea shore, this precious green belt has been qualified, by European Union, as Site of Community Importance for its extraordinary environmental value. Spread along the dunes of the coast, dominated by a rock shaped as an elephant head, are a dense holm oak forest and the sweet-smelling Mediterranean shrub which host many peculiar plants and birds.
Among the vegetation, lies an unespected surprise: a temple of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, dating back to the 1st century B.C.
Spas and Wellness
Near Lake Lucrino, on the slopes of Tritoli hill, can be seen the entrances of Roman steam rooms. If you want to emulate Roman emperors and patricians, the modern spa centre “Stufe di Nerone” offers the possibility to pleasantly while away the hours with its natural steam rooms, a thermal swimming pool, a hydromassage pool and a solarium.
The thermal hot water of this complex are useful as treatment for female sterility and are of benefit for arthritis, rheumatism and respiratory disorders.
Agnano Thermal Park
This complex of 60 hectares offers mud baths, thermal waters, aerosol and natural steam baths. Known since the Middle age under the name of Saint Germanus (a bishop of Capua who tested the effects) Sudatorium, today boasts a green scenery, parking sites, a four star Hotel and a restaurant.
Behind the modern spa, along the slopes of Monte Spina (Thorn Mount) are the ruins of a Roman thermal complex built in the 2nd century A. D. , and arranged on several terraces. Near the modern baths is the Dog’c Cave with its carbonic acid, capable to kill any animal which breathes it.
At the time of Grand Tour, poor dogs were shoved into the cave just to see the poisonous gas at work.
Scuba diving or snorkeling in the underwater archeological site of Baia. An amazing experience to bring you back to roman times in a unique scenery, the sea! The small city of Baia, rich of thermal baths, was the favorite destinations of roman emperors and rich citizens. During the centuries, because of the volcanic activity of […]