Steaming bubbling and volcanic the Campi Flegrei Fiery Fields are Naples bestkept secret

Stretching west from Posillipo Hill to the Tyrrhenian Sea, this pock-marked landscape of craters, lakes and fumaroles heaves with ancient myths and legends. This is where Icarus plunged to his death with melted wings, where Aeneas sought the Sibyl's advice, and where Roman emperors came to soak, swim and indulge. Hillsides are littered with thermal baths, sunken villas lie under the sea and unassuming streets hide some of Italy's finest archaeological sites.

Predating the city of Naples, the Greek settiements of the Campi Flegrei are the oldest in Italy. Cuma, the first mainland stronghold in the area, was already a thriving city in the 7th century BC when the Greeks founded Parthenope (the area around Pizzofalcone in Naples) in 680 BC. Pozzuoli, the area's main centre, was founded around 530 BC while Neapolis (where Naples' centio storico now stands) sprung up in 470 BC. Beneath Pozzuoli's streets, you can roam the ancient port's alleys and taverns. Nearby, you can climb Europe's newest mountain (Monte Nuovo), let nature freak you out at the hissing Solfatara Crater and look for the mythical entrance to hell at peaceful Lago d'Averno.

Before exploring the area it's worth stopping at the tourist office (@ 081 526 66 39; Piazza G Matteotti la; S9am-2pm & 2.30-3.40pm Mon-Fri Oct-May, 9am-lpm & 4-7.30pm daily Jun-Sep) in Pozzuoli to pick up a copy of the very useful leaflet Welcome to the Campi Flegrei. Also a good idea is the €4 cumulative ticket that covers the Tempio di Serapide and the archaeological sites of Baia and Cuma.

Solfa ta ra Crater (p104), Pozzuoli

JEAN-BERNARD CftRILLET

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