The Phlegraean Fields, what are they exactly?

Campi Flegrei, capped by the beautiful town of Pozzuoli, is an area of South Italy where geology, history, culture and the sea are all knottily interwoven.

Just a few miles West of Naples, Campi Flegrei (aka Phlegraean Fields) is an especially great destination for a short break in Italy, inviting visitors to a loaded menu of archaeological discoveries, exquisite spa retreats, seaside relaxation and fun geological excursions.

More precisely, Campi Flegrei, which means ‘burning fields’ in Italian, refers to Southern Italy’s almighty supervolcano, a giant capable of wiping out an entire civilisation with a whim.

Its neighbour, Mount Vesuvius, is a mere bump on the road compared to this class of volcanic power.

Some scientists believe that a past eruption, that occurred about 40,000 years ago, may have led to the extinction of the Neanderthals, making way for modern humans to prosper in Europe and Asia.

The supervolcano formed hundreds of thousands of years ago, and today encompasses a cluster of 24 craters, volcanic vents, fumaroles and mountains.

Most of it lies underwater nowadays, due to a spectacular phenomenon called ‘bradyseism’, unique to this area. Magma chambers beneath the ground get filled up or emptied, causing a geological bustle that results in either the uplifting or plunging off the Earth’s surface.

Campi Flegrei is hence a gigantic volcanic complex that has shaped the land and its people for thousands of years. It is in this ominous environment that Pozzuoli, the main town of the Campi Flegrei, defiantly rests.

Nothing could stop its resilient inhabitants from leading one of the most vulnerable lives on the planet, which begs the question, what makes Pozzuoli and the Campi Flegrei so special?

A lovely ancient town

Inhabited since the 2nd century BC, Pozzuoli has seen a long, multi-chaptered life that is handsomely assembled in its historical centre, Rione Terra. A recent renovation program has given the centre an impeccable facelift so that visitors can really experience its ancient open-air beauty.

Its multifaceted journey cannot be better emblematized than by its Cathedral. This 17th-century monument was built over the 1st century Roman Temple of Augustus, itself built on the original Capitolium of the Roman colony of Puteoli (194BC.).  The cathedral is also home to 17th-century paintings by Giovanni Lanfranco and Jusepe De Ribera.

The town is also home to a Flavian Amphitheatre, the third largest in Italy after Rome’s Colosseum and Verona’s Amphitheatre. The Roman Macellum is another archaeological treasure, documenting what used to be a thriving ancient market.

Pozzuoli

The thermal parks

Baia, on the Western side of the Gulf of Pozzuoli, is more than just a destination for a spa break. It is a legacy. It is right here, in Baia, that the rich and glamorous of the Roman Empire, including Julius Caesar himself, came to bathe in the abundant thermal waters of the town, taking full advantage of the warm weather, clear seas and beauty of the landscapes.

The area’s volcanic essence has blessed the land with mineral-rich waters, natural saunas and mud pools that carry excellent healing qualities, such as the ability to treat skin conditions, rheumatism or respiratory issues.

The Roman patrician built luxurious villas to spend their summers in Baia, optimising on the land’s therapeutic gifts. Today, Baia builds on this great heritage with its enviable spa retreats, so that modern visitors can do just as the Romans did.

Try termestufedinerone.it, the 30-euro One Day Spa include the use of various thermal pools with different water temperatures, steam rooms, sauna, hydro massage showers, sun loungers and changing rooms

 

La Solfatara

The dormant Solfatara volcano, formed about 4000 years ago, is one of Pozzuoli’s most popular attractions. Its crater is the famous home of Vulcan, the God of Fire in Roman mythology.

Solfatara’s crater floor displays mud pools, fumaroles and effusive sulphurous vapours. A guide will take you around the site. They sometimes hold a lighter to one of the vents issuing poisonous gasses to prove how flammable the whole place is.

Visiting the Solfatara

Monday - Sunday:
8:30 to 19:00 from April to October
8:30 to 16:30 from November to March

Full price € 7,00
Evening visit with Guide (when scheduled) € 15,00
Children (5 to 12 year) € 5,00
Children up to 4 years old Free

 

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La Solfatara

By the sea with many beach lidos

Pozzuoli is also a great destination for a holiday on the beach. Beaches are sandy and stretchy equipped with modern facilities like swimming pools, beach bars, sun loungers and parasols.

Beach activities for the whole family are also available, including water sports and diving excursions.

The sun-kissed sea and open views of the Gulf of Pozzuoli, with the Phlegraean Islands of Ischia and Procida on the West, and Capri and the Bay of Naples on the East, provide for the most alluring postcard-pictures.

Lido Marina beach

25 euro buys you 2 sun loungers with a parasol, the sandy beach is very clean and the price also includes the use of the pool, changing rooms and showers. There is also a snack bar serving hot and cold food.

 

The wines

Thanks to the mineral-rich volcanic soils and Mediterranean climate, Pozzuoli and the surrounding region of Campania are troves of high-quality wines, both white and red, falling under the Campi Flegrei DOC umbrella.

The wine-making traditions here can be traced to Roman times with some vineyards still grown following an old, vine training technique called ‘Pozzuoli style’, or ‘alla putuelana’, that makes use of espaliers.

Falanghina and Piedirosso are the wines to order. 

Interested in wine tasting? Try cantinedellaverno.it by Lake Averno where you can see the historic 17th-century cellar, walk along the vineyards and taste some wonderful food and wine


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Easy access to other touristic sites

Pozzuoli is at the epicentre of a collection of fascinating attractions.

Naples is just a 40-min train drive away and from the port of Pozzuoli, boat services take you to various islands including Ischia and Procida.

Baia, three train stops away from Pozzuoli, is one of the very few places in the world with archaeological diving. Dive to discover the submerged homes of the Roman elite, and other sunken wonders. (parcoarcheologicosommersodibaia.it)

Baia is also home to the Baia Archaeological Park holding the remains of a massive thermal bath complex from the Roman spa town of Baia. 

The Cumae Archaeological Park, a 15-minute bus ride from Pozzuoli, is an ancient city of Magna Graecia and the first Greek settlement on mainland Italy. It is also the legendary home of the Cumaean Sybil, the most famous oracles in Greek mythology.

Lake Avernus, a crater lake bordering the Sybil’s cave, is believed to have been the entrance to the underworld. It is from here that Greek hero Aeneas, guided by Virgil, made his descent to Hades.

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Music and glamour!

This is certainly an extra treat for jazz fans. Every year in July, Pozzuoli’s most evocative venues become the host of the Pozzuoli Jazz festival (PJF).

Sites of special historical or natural charm, such as the Solfatara, Rione terra, the Dock of Pozzuoli or the ancient Bath of Neptune, morph into the most enchanting stages for Jazz music, concerted by both Italian and international artists. (pozzuolijazzfestival.it)

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