Full of mysteries, the Campi Flegrei are a land shaped by time that slowly reveals the memories of a noble past and jealously preserves many of its secrets.
The Campi Flegrei have been a land in constant evolution since ancient times. The earth’s crust is thinning to bring out the flaming heart of the earth. Instability characterizes the landscape as the inhabitants are used to rapid exodus. But such a harsh and strong place, where earth, water and fire collide, could not fail to arouse wonder, respect and fear since ancient times.
The volcanic activity of this region – phlegraios means fire – is the source of 72 springs with temperatures between 20°C and 70°C. Cuma, Dicearchia (today’s Pozzuoli), Agnano, Baia and Bacoli were the most important centers of the Campi Flegrei area. At the time of the ancient Greeks this area extended west of Naples from Posillipo to Cuma and included the islands of Nisida, Ischia and Procida.
Cuma is a place suspended between history, myth and legend, famous for its architectural remains from antiquity. Established in 1930, the Archaeological Park of Cuma (open every day from 9:00 to sunset) is the oldest and largest in the Campi Flegrei, and is still the object of study and research.
In the lower part of the city were the amphitheater from the 2nd century BC, the Forum, the Capitolium and the thermal complex. Before entering the Acropolis, you come across the Roman Crypt, a long tunnel that crossed the Monte di Cuma, plugging the hole at the docks, and the Grotta dell’Oracolo della Sibilla. The latter is mentioned by Virgil in the sixth canto of the Archipelago and was considered the seat of the priestess of Apollo, to which the ancients turned to have an answer on their fate. It was actually a defensive military work.
Along the Via Sacra, which boasts some panoramic points from which the view stretches up to Capo Miseno, you can see the ruins of the temples of Jupiter and Apollo.
Pozzuoli, the ancient Dicearchia (city of just government) was founded by Greek exiles from Samos around the year 530 BC. Then it passed under the dominion of Rome, which renamed it Puteolis. Until the opening of the port of Ostia it was the most important Roman airport in the Mediterranean.
The city developed on the hills surrounding the tuffaceous promontory close to the Earth, almost entirely surrounded by the sea. Not far away, in the first century AD, at the time of Vespasian, stood the majestic Flavian Amphitheater (open every day from 9 to sunset). Crossing the port, Pozzuoli came into contact with the entire ancient world, assimilating traditional arts such as glass, ceramics, perfumes, fabrics, colors and iron.
The surrounding area became a fortified city in the Middle Ages. Subsequently, due to its position and the richness of the characteristics of the area, it interested all the rulers who succeeded to the throne of Naples. Numerous churches arose in the intricate road system and construction work on the beach began.
However, the building ferment was once again destined to be interrupted by a natural event: the birth and eruption of Monte Nuovo in 1538. In 1600 the Rione Terra was the subject of radical and important restructuring. The buildings underwent a redevelopment work according to the forms of the time.
Finally, in the last hundred years, the district has undergone a further process of degradation. The arbitrary demolition, a serious fire and the eviction of 1970 have decreed the total interruption of the history of Pozzuoli. The bradyseism of 1983 seemed to inflict a severe blow, but in recent years a new recovery and redevelopment phase has begun, thanks to a project that is transforming the area into a cultural pole.
Crossing the city center with an obligatory stop at the square of the Temple of Serapis, you can stop at the Solfatara volcano. Still active, the Solfatara of Pozzuoli is undoubtedly the most interesting volcano of the Campi Flegrei. Here you can immerse yourself in a landscape of Dante’s Inferno surrounded by sulfur vapors and natural heat sources.
At the time of the ancient Romans, Baia was a popular holiday resort and spa: Caesar, Pompey and Cicero had built sumptuous villas here and Horace declared it the most beautiful bay in the world. The Terme di Baia are currently part of the homonymous archaeological park.
We then go to the Aragonese Castle, home to the Archaeological Museum (open from 9 to sunset, closed on Mondays), which houses the evidence of the ancient splendor of the Gulf and the imperial port of Miseno.
Bacoli is a small fishing village, once a glorious Roman military port. Jewels of this town are the remains of two of the many structures from the Roman era.
The Piscina Mirabilis is the largest Roman cistern in Italy and is the terminal of the Serino aqueduct. It’s all dug out of the tuff. The walls are entirely covered with the famous cocciopesto plaster, able to resist the presence of water for almost 2000 years. The charm of the place is enhanced by the narrow openings of the filter once which leave a soft light capable of giving the extraordinary charm of this “cathedral” of Roman hydraulic engineering.
Not far away, the complex water system still makes a show in the Roman villa of Ortensio “Cento camerelle” (open every day from 9 in the morning until one hour before sunset, in agreement with the caretaker), and some tunnels go up to to the tuffaceous ridge overlooking the sea, others are dead-end and not yet fully explored.
Official website: http://www.pafleg.it/