Campi Flegrei or Phlegraean Fields – the burning heart of Italy
2000 Years after the last giant eruption which destroyed the area around the famous vulcano, we visit Vesuvius and Campi Fegrei. A volcanic unstable area in mid Italy, now populated by many, many people again. As was the case in 79 AD, when an impressive eruption of Vesuvius destroyed cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum, killing over 10000 people. I have read the book ‘Pompeii’ by Robert Harris for reference. I liked it a lot and now want to see things with my own eyes.
First stop is Costiera Amalfi, the beautiful coast just South of Napels, and the lovely villages of Amalfi and Positano. A hectic drive where we first get lost in the outskirts of Napels, then drive along a narrow coastal road to finally end up in beautiful, typical Italian villages. Yes very, very touristic, but amazingly beautiful. This is a nice start of our holiday.
Next visit is mount Vesuvius. We can see it watching us from a distance, overlooking the whole region. It is like a giant sleeping evil mountain. I am impressed by its size and presence, especially when I think back at the story in the book and realising what it is capable of. However, reaching the parking I am not so impressed anymore to be honest. The walk up is easy and the crater is just a hole with a bunch of rocks. No, certainly not what I had imagined. The view from the top is great, that is at least something. Knowing this volcano is not extinct and seeing the houses of over 4.5 million people living in Napels I just realize this will end dramatic again in future.
We vist Herculaneum, nowadays called Ercolaneo. It is a city destroyed during the eruption of Vesuvius. The excavations are located in the middle of a new town, with the volcano standing in the background. It feels impressive to be able to walk on and in history. I like this place a lot, especially with the beautiful mosaic and wall paintings. It is very well preserved and relatively quiet.
Proceeding on our tour along the Phlagraean Fields we pass Solfatara. A dormant volcanic crater, smelling like rotten eggs with its active sulpuric fumaroles and mud pools. Amazing to find a place like this in a dense populated area. We get our free facial treatment walking around the fumes and move on to Miseno. In a newsletter of the Dutch Geological Society I read an item about the Piscina Mirabilis. It is one of the largest cisterns dating back to the Roman times and is currently privately owned. We ring a doorbell, a grumpy Italian lady opens the door and we ask very friendly if we may visit the site. She opens the gate with a large key and leaves us to it. Hilarious, but so beautiful. And sinister in a way, walking in this underground, damp, spooky place. There are no other tourists around, surprisingly. I love it!
A trip to this area is not complete without visiting Pompeii of course. One of the most famous Italian cities. I have been here before, some years ago. And still it is very impressive. I can feel, see, almost smell the live as it was lived two thousand years ago. Streets, houses, theater, bath house, squares, it is all still there, overlooked by this impressive evil mountain in the background. Brrr… I do not want to think of how these peolle must have felt during the eruption. I do see the plaster casts of people and their pets, reminding us of their sudden death by the hot, acid gasses. Impressive. Is that where the phrase “see Napels and die” comes from?
“Vedi Napoli e poi muori”