The Rione Terra: An Underground Adventure

If you read our “Top Roman Relics to explore in Pozzuoli” article, then you will already know a little bit about the Rione Terra. But, as promised, we’ve now put together a whole article just about this magnificent archaeological attraction, so you can learn even more about what to expect upon a visit to the fascinating Roman remains.

The Rione Terra is perfect for lovers of antiquity as it was the first inhabited area of Pozzuoli, making it the oldest section of the city. However, to explore this history lover’s paradise, you have to get beneath the surface of the city! As you may know, due to building, construction (and in Pozzuoli’s case, volcanic activity!), ground levels have changed significantly over the past thousands of years, so the streets that the Romans walked are now far below those we tread today. The Rione Terra is a perfect example of this, as to see the Roman relic (which was preceded by a Greek town, yet little evidence has been found of this) you actually have to enter through a 16 th Century building that was built on top of it! And when you do, you will descend into a magical world of preserved antiquity, as you have the opportunity to peruse the streets of one-time settlement Puteoli, which was founded in 194 BC and became the commercial port of Rome, meaning that many important people, goods and tradesmen from as far afield as Spain and Africa would be passing through these narrow streets. With excavations ongoing, there is plenty (and plenty more to come!) to explore in this underground adventure land.



As well as walking up and down the main street and side streets (known in Latin as the decumanus and cardo respectively) as you imagine yourself in a toga and sandals instead of your holiday clothes, you can also find yourself inside Roman shops, with one of the most intact and exciting establishments being the bakery, where you can poke your head inside the large oven that would have been used to bake lovely loves to satisfy hungry traders at the port. There’re even the remains of a Roman millstone which would have turned by slaves or donkeys to grind wheat into flour!

One of the most innovative and exciting parts of the development of the visitor experience at the Rione Terra is the use of artistic projections against the Roman remains. For example, in the bakery, the aforementioned millstone has the silhouettes of people rotating around it, giving the impression of it being turned to fulfil its function. There are other Roman silhouettes that are projected around the streets which feel like the ghosts of Puteoli’s past, and there are also multimedia videos at various points of the tour which provide extra information about the history of the port. Or if you prefer to learn your historical information from a human rather than digital source, the Rione Terra is now starting to put on theatrical tours so that you can be shown around by costumed performers embodying Roman characters, and conveying fascinating facts through an entertaining storyline.



Whilst you’re in the area of the Rione Terra, you should check out some of the other historical gems it has to offer, such as the nearby Cathedral of San Procolo Martire. Now dedicated to the patron saint of Pozzuoli, the cathedral was originally an Augustine temple. It differs from other temples of the time, as it is built with marble blocks rather and lined with pillars rather than having Roman concrete walls. After a destructive fire in 1964, the cathedral is under a period of reconstruction overseen by Florentine architect Marco Dezzi Bardeschi, so it is an exciting time to see how the house of worship will be returned to its former glory, recognising all the different facets of its colourful past.




(photo credit Marina Sgamato)

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