Bay of Naples, Italy Trip 2018

Awash with rugged coastlines, azure seas and age-old cities, the Bay of Naples is one of the most beautiful corners of Europe.  A coastal strip of terraced farmland, cliff-side settlements and archaeological riches becomes your backdrop, whilst the mighty Mount Vesuvius looms over the ancient ruins of Pompeii.  Rumbling with volcanic activity and evidence of past eruptions, this is one for lovers of the hot stuff.  The history, culture, architecture, food and sheer beauty of this Campania region of southern Italy make it a hugely popular place to visit.

The Trip

Our Bay of Naples 2018 trip is specifically for Year 10 students who are studying Geography, History or Religious Studies (Full Course) for GCSE and will take place on Monday 16th to Friday 20th July.  This five day, four night trip will include a tour of the historic sites at Pompeii and Amalfi, a visit to the famous Vesuvius volcano and the beautiful island of Capri.  The total cost of the trip is £755.00 and includes all travel, accommodation, food and the day excursions.  The full itinerary of the trip is shown in the tables below.  A pdf copy of the itinerary may be downloaded by clicking on the link below the last table.

Bay of Naples, Italy Trip 2018 Itinerary

Sightseeing in Rome

A heady mix of haunting ruins, awe-inspiring art and vibrant street life, Italy’s sizzling capital is one of the world’s most romantic and inspiring cities.   If time allows, there a number of fantastic ‘must sees’.

The Colosseum is the biggest amphitheatre ever built and the ultimate symbol of imperial Rome.  It’s every tourist’s rite of passage to stroll through the crumbling stadium, once sheethed in marble, and imagine the gladiatorial combats, the lions that once prowled the stadium, the roar of the crowd.   Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72, and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir Titus as a gift to the Roman People.  Without doubt it was not only an amphitheatre but also a symbol of the power and majesty of the emperor, Rome and Roman society.

The Pantheon is a former temple which became a church in 609 AD.  Its all granite Corinthian columns, colured marble and bronze doors are a sight to behold and the centrepiece is the coffered concrete dome, with an oculus (circular opening) in the middle, where the light streams in.   The word ‘Pantheon’ is a Greek adjective meaning ‘honor all Gods’.  The Pantheon is the only structure of its age and size that has successfully survived the ravages of time and gravity intact with all its splendour and beauty.  Although there were earlier versions destroyed by natural causes, today’s Pantheon was constructed in 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian, who was passionate about architecture.  He ultimately beheaded his architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, because of an argument about the design!

The Trevi Fountain is the world’s most famous fountain, a Baroque explosion of tritons, winged horses and drinking snakes, gleams bright as the teeth of the Cheshire Cat.  The water glitters with thousands of coins that tourists have tossed in.  It racks up to €2000 each week, money which is collected to fund a supermarket for the poor.  Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi, with your back to the fountain from your right hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome.  The Trevi is located at one end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus.  The central figure of the fountain, standing in a large niceh, is Neptune, god of the sea.  The fountain took 30 years to construction and was completed in 1762.  It is mostly built of travertine stone, a word which is derived from the Latin adjective ‘tiburtinus, which means from Tibur.

Roman Forum were once the most important meeting places in the world – where temples rubbed alongside brothels; streets tremored with triumphal processions and heaving markets; and squares thronged with spectators of fervid political debate and criminal trials.  The remains of the Roman Forum were discovered in 1803 by archaeologist, Carlo Fea, but the excavations were not fully completed until the 20th Century.

Palatine Hill is the most famous of Rome’s seven hills, and has played an important role in the city’s history, starting from the days of its foundation. It was the legendary first home of Romulus and Remus, and was later chosen by emperors and aristocrats for their luxurious villas. Towering over the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus, the Palatine offers spectacular views of Rome, and a chance to learn about the fascinating myths and history of Ancient Rome.

Vatican City—The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned its construction on the foundations of the original Capella Magna in 1477.  The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous frescoes in the world and unsurprisingly it’s one of Rome’s most visited and valued historic sites.  Set within the Vatican City and Museums, it welcomes around 25,000 visitors a day who flock to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece and marvel at the feat of artistry.   Michelangelo began his work on the ceiling in 1508, work he undertook without enthusiasm, as his main artistic interest was in sculpture.  He hated the job so much that in 1509 he wrote a poem to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia lamenting how he’d ‘grown a goitre from this torture’ due to the physical strain of the work!

Vatican Museums all 54 of them – contain the world’s largest collection of ar,t with 9 miles of pieces, which could wrap four and a half times round the Vatican walls!  The Museums comprise 1,400 rooms, chapels and galleries and constitute the former wings of the Vatican Palace. The Vatican City itself is easily the most history-laden religious city in the world.  Not even Jerusalem can come close to what the city has in terms of religious history.  The holy city is an enclave within the capital of Italy and thus combines the history of the church and that of the Roman Empire.  Within all this history, some facilities outrank all the others – the Vatican Museums being one.  They were founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th Century. 

Vatican City—St Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches ever built.  It is an Italian Renaissance beauty—all papal tombs, neoclassical sculptures and frenziedly detailed reliefs.  Those with the energy can climb the 871 steps to the top of the Basilica’s dome for 360-degree views of Vatican City.  The first cornerstone for this sanctified structure was laid on 18th april 1506.  It contains 100+ tombs including 91 popes, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II and Swedish Queen Christina, who abdicated the throne to convert to Catholicism.

Vatican City—St. Peter’s Square or Piazza San Pietro, located at the feet of St. Peter’s Basilica, is  probably one of the world’s most famous squares and one of the most breath-taking.  Designed by Bernini during the 17th Century, it is 320 m long and 240 wide and can hold up to 300,000 people.  In the centre of the square is the obelisk and the two fountains, one by Bernini and the other by Maderno.  The obelisk is 25 m high and was carried to Rome from Egypt in 1586.

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about 9 km east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc.  Estimated to be about 17,000 years old, Mount Vesuvius measures approximately 30 miles around its base and rises to 4,203 feet above sea level.  

Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe, and has produced some of the continent’s largest volcanic eruptions. Located on Italy’s west coast, it overlooks the Bay and City of Naples and sits in the crater of the ancient Somma volcano.  Vesuvius is most famous for the 79 AD eruption which destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  Though the volcano’s last eruption was in 1944, it still represents a great danger to the cities that surround it, especially the busy metropolis of Naples.

What is commonly called Mount Vesuvius is in fact an amalgam of two mountains: Monte Somma and Vesuvius.  The two peaks are easily distinguishable.  The active cone of Vesuvius was constructed within a large caldera of the ancestral Monte Somma volcano.  It  is a complex stratovolcano, built by layers of hardened lava, pumice, and volcanic ash.  Such composite volcanos have a conical shape with gentle lower slopes that rise steeply.  The crater is at the summit.  Eight major explosive eruptions have taken place in the last 17 000 years.  Major eruptions were often accompanied by surges and large pyroclastic flows, which is an avalanche of hot toxic gasses and fluidized rock that rushes down the side of a volcano at up to 100 km perhour. 

The eruption on the 24th, August 79 AD was said to have lasted more than 24 hours.  The first rain of ash and pumice was not necessarily lethal.  People who fled immediately stood a chance of survival.  But most tried to weather the storm and were caught by the pyroclastic flows.  The eruption released a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing, spewing ash, mud and rocks, burying people under thick laters of ash.  Most people died instantly of extreme heat, when temperatures rose to up to 300°C [570°F] and more.  The remains of  1,500 people have been found, but the exact number of casualties is unknown.  The casts of hot ash and pumice covering the victims helped to preserve their clothes and faces.  When the eruption was at its height, Mount Vesuvius spewed 1.5 million tons lava per second.  Like shooting out 250, 000 fully grown elephants each second and letting them fall through the air!

Volcanologists have adopted the term “Plinian” from Vesuvius to describe large volcanic eruption clouds.  This is due to Pliny the Younger, who described the 79 AD eruption as a tall, “umbrella pine” shaped cloud that rose above the volcano.  Most of the rocks that erupted from Vesuvius are andesite.  Andesite lava creates explosive eruptions, which makes Vesuvius especially dangerous and unpredictable.  Vesuvius has erupted many times since then.  The eruption in 472 was said to spew ash that ended up as far away as present day Istanbul.  The eruptions of 512 were so severe, that people living on the the fertile slopes of Vesuvius were granted tax exemption.  A major eruption in December 1631 killed around 3 000 people and buried many villages under lava flows.  On April 7, 1906 Mount Vesuvius ejected more lava than ever and killed 100 people.  The last major eruption took place in March 1944. It lasted two weeks and destroyed almost 80 allied planes stationed at the Pompeii Airfield.  The were no people among the casualties.

None of the later eruptions were as large or destructive as the Pompeian one, but Vesuvius is still considered one the the world’s most dangerous volcanoes.  Ongoing efforts are being made to reduce the number of people living within the red zone, where there is a high risk of pyroclastic flows.  Today  600 000 people are living within the red zone and the authorities have a plan for their emergency evacuation.  Depending on the direction of the wind, an eruption may affect the inhabitants of large cities such as Naples, Avellino and Salerno.

The Island of Capri and the Town of Anacapri

The Island of Capri is one of the most picturesque and visited locations in Campania.  Its unique beauties have been celebrated since ancient times.  There are two main towns—Capri and Anacapri.  Capri is definitely for the smart set, with its luxury boutiques, glamorous hotels and celebrity restaurants.  The town centre is a maze of narrow little lanes winding between traditional whitewashed buildings.   The town of Capri is situated on a verdant little plateau – like a saddle – high above the sea. The island’s port, Marina Grande, is connected with the town by funicular, bus and taxi or the Phoenician Steps (Scala Fenicia).  Take a stroll out to Punta Tragara, a viewpoint above the Faraglioni rocks, from which the Emperor Tiberius disposed of his enemies! 

Certosa di San Giocomo is a monastery or charterhouse, which dates to the fourteenth century and is the oldest historic building on the Island of Capri. There are two attractive cloisters and exhibitions of art, plus a somewhat ramshackle if shady garden.

Giardini di Augusto are beautifully manicured, picturesque gardens established by the German Industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp in the early 20th Century to build his mansion in.

Grotta di Matermania is a large cave containing ruins dating back to the Roman age, and was used by the Emperor Tiberius as a Nympheum.  The irregularly shaped Grotto was consolidated and rendered more regular with massive masonry structures by the Romans, so as to assume the shape of a rectangular apsed hall; the walls at the two sides originally supported the vaulted ceiling of the Grotto; the end being formed by two high semicircular plinths and by the natural rock wall, out of which flowed a spring of fresh water that was collected in a small hollow.

Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto) is a natural sea cave, 60 meters long and 25 meters wide and accessible only by boat.  The bright blue colour of the water inside the cave is due to the sunlight which enters the cavern through an underwater opening ,which is positioned exactly under the cave’s mouth.  As the light passes through the water, the red reflections are filtered out and only the blue enter the cave itself.  The famous silver reflections of objects in the water are caused by tiny bubbles covering the outside of objects underwater, which causes the light to refract differently than that of the surrounding water and causes this silvery effect.   During the reign of Emperor Tiberius, the grotto was used as a marine temple, the ancient statues of which can now be found on display at the Casa Rossa in Anacapri.

Grotta Verde (Green Grotto) is a popular sea cave, again only accessible by boat from Marina Grande.  It gets its name from the green light that reflects on the rocks inside of the cave, creating a beautiful visual effect .

Via Krupp is a historic switchback paved footpath on the island of Capri, connecting the Certosa di San Giacomo and the Gardini di Augusto with Marina Piccola.  Commissioned by German industrialist, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, the path covers an elevation difference of about 100 m.  Built between 1900 and 1902, ostensibly Via Krupp was a connection for Krupp between his luxury hotel, Grand Hotel Quisisana, and Marina Piccola, where his marine biology research vessel lay at anchor.  In reality the path played a significant part in a scandal, which led to Krupp’s banishment from the island and may well have led to his death.

The Faraglioni Rocks are the three stacks, coastal and oceanic rock formations eroded by waves, that come into view as you approach the island.  The largest and closest to Capri is attached to land by a short isthmus.  Known as Stella, or Faraglioni di terra, the dramatic pinnacle reaches a height of 365 feet / 110 metres and it is from here that the Emperor Tiberius is said to have thrown his enemies.  The middle stone formation, called Faraglioni di Mezzo, is recognized by its natural archway, which is large enough to allow for the passage of a small boat.  The shortest of the three rocks, Faraglioni di Fuori, peaks at 265 feet / 80 metres.  It is also known as Scopolo and is the home to the blue lizard (Podarcis sicula coerulea), which is found nowhere else in the world.

Villa Jovis is one of 12 villas built by the Emperor Tiberius on Capri and is the most extensive remains.  It sits high on the cliffs, a little over a mile long walk from Capri town centre.  This most luxurious and sumptuous of Tiberius’s island villas is just over a mile’s walk from Capri town.  A vast complex, now reduced to ruins, it famously pandered to the emperor’s supposedly debauched tastes, and included imperial quarters and extensive bathing areas set in dense gardens and woodland.   The villa’s spectacular location posed major headaches for Tiberius’ architects.  The main problem was how to collect and store enough water to supply the villa’s baths and 3000-sq-metre gardens.  The solution they eventually hit upon was to build a complex canal system to transport rainwater to four giant storage tanks, whose remains you can still see today.

Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Steps) leads you on foot from the main ferry port of Marina Grande to Anacapri via the Phoenician Steps – all 921 of them—and then on up a well marked track to the summit of Monte Solaro (589 m above sea level).  Until recently, it was believed that the Scala Fenicia had been built by the Phoenicians, hence the name.  Recent research has demonstrated that the stone steps were chiselled out of the rock face by the Ancient Greeks, between the 7th and 6th century B.C.

Anacapri, the island’s second town, is located on the slopes of Mount Solaro and is a concentration of Mediterranean colours, scents, and sounds.  Town life here has remained authentic despite the island’s tourism.  Tucked between the houses there are tiny, humble vegetable gardens surrounded by lush tropical plants.  A walk around the centre of Anacapri will take you past tiny Neapolitan tailor shops, artisan shoemakers, ladies sitting in the shade outside working on their knitting while exchanging gossip and news…all with the scent of the town’s lemon groves that permeates the air.   The landscape is surprisingly wild, with rocky terrain inhabited by goats and gulls, and groves of pine and semitropical, Mediterranean brush.  A zigzag road connects the town with Capri, a journey of a mere 10 minutes.

Monte Solaro is the highest point on the island at 1,932 feet, the summit of which accessible either by chairlift from the Piazza della Vittoria or by walking the well marked track, which may take up to 1.5 hours.  Locals often refer to Monte Solaro as the “Acchiappanuvole” or “cloud catcher” after the thick blanket of fog which forms around the summit, especially at dawn, when the thermal difference between the sea and the rock is accentuated. The warmer, damper sea air condenses in a dense mist on the ground, the temperature of which has notably diminished during the night. Where its path is obstructed, the vapors rise upwards generating a characteristic crown of clouds. This phenomenon also occurs in the evening, especially in the autumn. The wind clears away parts of cloud, randomly revealing various segments of the beautiful island landscape below.

A Drive Down the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region.  It’s a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages.  The coastal road between the port city of Salerno and clifftop Sorrento winds past grand villas, terraced vineyards and cliffside lemon groves.   A kind climate, abundant resources and natural beauty have drawn people to this coast for many centuries, and the Greeks, Romans, Normans, Saracens, Arab-Sicilians and many others have left their mark.

Amalfi communities often cluster along cliffs, their terraces blending into the rock to add their own picturesque charm to the natural beauty of the coast.  Upon closer inspection, towns like Amalfi and Ravello are home to many examples of artistic and architectural excellence—not a surprise, since this stretch of the Sorrento Peninsula has long attracted famous artists of all stripes.

Amalfi itself thrives as a picturesque tourist centre, but in the 11th and 12th centuries the city was a maritime republic, a naval power to be reckoned with throughout the Mediterranean.  Amalfi’s ports also saw extensive trade with North Africa and the city retains cloisters of Arab-Sicilian architecture throughout, as well as the Arsenale—a partially preserved medieval shipyard from a glorious era.

In Paestum, columned temples to Poseidon, Hera, and Athena stand in what was, from the 7th century B.C., the Greek city of Poseidonia.  These breathtaking structures are among the best preserved of their kind to be found anywhere in the world.

 Until the 1800s the coast’s steep terrain meant that overland access to the region was possible only by mule.  While many oases of quiet can still be found here, particularly away from tourist centres, the Amalfi Coast has changed irreversibly since then.  But echoes of far more distant eras remain, including ancient cathedrals, gardens.  The stunning natural landscape and historical sites earned the Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast) World Heritage status in 1997.

The Cathedral of St. Andrew was built in the early 1200s.  The cathedral features a dramatic location atop a steep flight of stairs, an Arab-influenced exterior, and the relics of St. Andrew the Apostle (the patron saint of Amalfi) in its crypt.  The brother of St. Peter, Andrew was a fisherman and one of the first apostles.  According to tradition, Andrew spread the gospel in Greece until he was executed by crucifixion on a diagonal cross in Patras.  Andrew’s remains were transferred from Patras to Constantinople around 357 to be placed in Constantine’s new Church of the Holy Apostles.  During the Fourth Crusade, Cardinal Pietro Capuano took Andrew’s relics from Constantinople and brought them to Amalfi.  They arrived on 8th May 1208 and were placed in the cathedral’s crypt, where they remain today.

The cathedral looms impressively over the small Piazza Duomo from atop 62 broad stairs.  Its facade, an 1800s approximation of the original, is an Arab-Sicilian riot of stripes, arches and mosaics.  The bell tower on the left has a highly elaborate top, comprised of a central cupola surrounded by four turrets at the corners, all decorated with green and yellow tiles.  The cathedral’s central portal features a fine set of medieval bronze doors, the first to appear in Italy.  Remains of silver inlays depicting Christ, Mary, and various saints can still be seen.  The bronze doors are framed by a Romanesque portal, carved with vines inhabited by mythical beasts.

The interior of Amalfi Cathedral is sumptuously Baroque but the underlying architecture is Romanesque.  The paintings on the walls and ceilings depict the life and miracles of St. Andrew.  The high altar is made from the sarcophagus of Archbishop Pietro Capuano, decorated with fine bas-reliefs of the Twelve Apostles with St. Basil, St. Nicholas, Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

The Cloister of Paradise, entered at the left side of the cathedral’s portico, is one of the highlights of Amalfi Cathedral.  Built between 1266-68 to house the tombs of Amalfi’s wealthy merchants, it features slender double columns and Moorish-style arcades made of pure white marble.  In the centre is a Mediterranean garden, the surrounding walkways of which are full of notable historic art.

Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 metres of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.  The eruption occurred on 24 August 79 AD, the day after the religious festival to Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.  The city was founded in either the 6th or 7th century BC by the Oscans, who settled on the slopes of Vesuvius in an area not far from the river Sarno.  It came under the domination of Rome in the 4th century BC and became a Roman colony in 80 BC, after it joined an unsuccessful rebellion against the Roman Republic.  After the final occupation of the city, Pompeii underwent a vast process of infrastructural development, most of which was built during the Augustan period.  Pompeii was a highly developed and flourishing city before the disaster.  It had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium, and a port and supported about 11,000 inhabitants at the time of its destruction.  The dust “poured across the land” like a flood, one witness wrote, and shrouded the city in “a darkness… like the black of closed and unlighted rooms.”  Two thousand people died, and the city was abandoned for about 1,500 years.

After thick layers of ash covered Pompeii, it was abandoned and eventually its name and location were forgotten.  It was first rediscovered in 1599 by Domenico Fontana, an Italian architect.  He was digging up a new course for the river Sarno and had dug a channel underground when he discovered the city.  Work did not begin at Pompeii until 1748, and in 1763 an inscription (“Rei publicae Pompeianorum”) was found that identified the site as Pompeii.  The ashes had acted as a marvellous preservative.  Underneath all that dust, Pompeii was almost exactly as it had been 2,000 years before.  Its buildings were intact.  Skeletons were frozen right where they’d fallen.  Everyday objects and household goods littered the streets.  Later archaeologists even uncovered jars of preserved fruit and loaves of bread!  The objects that lay beneath the city have been preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture.  During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies.  This allowed archaeologists to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died.  In total, more than 1,000 casts have been made of the dead bodies found in Pompeii, including whole families, groups of friends or couples who died in embrace.  The large number of well-preserved frescoes provide information on everyday life and have been a major advance in art history of the ancient world.

Pompeii still preserves a large number of graffiti, which offers us a rare opportunity to read directly the words and thoughts of ancient Roman society. Here are some examples:

“Love dictates what I write and Cupid guides my hand: may I die if I wished to be a god without you.”
“I ask you to become the support of my old age.  If you don’t believe I have money, don’t love me.”
“I don’t care about your pregnancy, Salvilla; I despise it.”
“The gladiatorial troupe of Aulus Suettius Certus will fight at Pompeii on 31 May.  There will be a hunt and awnings.”
“If you’re going to fight, get out!”

The forum, the baths, many houses, and some out-of-town villas, such as the Villa of the Mysteries, remain well preserved.  An amphitheatre and two theatres have been found, along with a palaestra or gymnasium.  A hotel of 1,000 square metres was found a short distance from the town.  It is now nicknamed the “Grand Hotel Murecine“.  At least one building, the Lupanar, was dedicated to prostitution.

The Temple of Apollo was built in the 2nd century BC as the city’s most important religious structure.  The oldest architectural remains of the city, dated to the 6th century BC, are fragments of a Greek Doric temple.  Evidence of the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue citizens.  Pompeii is one of the most significant proofs of Roman civilization and, like an open book, provides outstanding information on the art, customs, trades and everyday life of the past.

Pompeii was a popular holiday resort for rich Romans who came to spend their holidays there.  Even Nero, one of the most famous Roman Emperors, is thought to have had his villa or holiday home in Pompeii and his second wife Poppaea Sabina was a native of the town.  Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum has been both exhibited as art and censored as pornography.  In 1819, when King Francis I of Naples visited the Pompeii exhibition at the Naples National Archaeological Museum with his wife and daughter, he was embarrassed by the erotic artwork and ordered it to be locked away in a secret cabinet accessible only to “people of mature age and respected morals”.

Today Pompeii has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy with approximately 2.5 million visitors every year.

Solfatara di Pozzuoli

The Solfatara di Pozzuoli is a shallow volcanic crater at Pozzuoli, near Naples, part of the Phlegraean Fields volcanic area.  It is a dormant volcano which still emits jets of steam with sulphurous fumes.  The name comes from the Latin, Sulpha terra, “land of sulfur”, or “sulfur earth”.  It was formed around 4,000 years ago and last erupted in 1198 with what was probably a phreatic eruption – an explosive steam-driven eruption caused when groundwater interacts with magma.  The crater floor is a popular tourist attraction, as it has many fumaroles and mud pools.  The area is well known for its bradyseism, the gradual uplift (positive bradyseism) or descent (negative bradyseism) of part of the Earth’s surface caused by the filling or emptying of an underground magma chamber and / or hydrothermal activity, particularly in volcanic calderas.  It can persist for millennia in between eruptions and each uplift event is normally accompanied by thousands of small to moderate earthquakes.  The vapours have been used for medical purposes since Roman times.

The Solfatara crater still smoulders endlessly today.  Located a few metres from the sea, an entrance leads down a tree lined path to a mars-like terrain.  The rotten egg smell is inescapable and, depending on the direction of the wind, wafts all the way to the city of Naples. 

The slopes surrounding the crater puff with sulfur steam.  Along one slope, two fumaroles shum their steam at somewhere around 160°C and turn the rocks around it into a copper-gold color.  The Italians call these two vents “La Bocca Grande” or “The Big Mouth.”  Behind their plume and hiss, a green algae grows that’s considered a biological rarity seen only when high temperatures and high acidity combine together.

In the middle of the crater, the Fangaia or boiling mud lakes sizzle at temperatures between 170-250° C.  The mud contains a bevy of gases and minerals that the Romans once harnessed for their hydrothermal spas.

The Romans said that Vulcan, the god of fire, worked here.  The crater is also believed to have been the inspiration for Virgil’s description of Hades.  Ruins of a Roman bath still exist at the western side of the crater with sulfur wisping out from the bricks.

 If visitors stomp on the ground, they’ll hear a hollow sound – evidence that porous caverns exist underneath.  Take a stick, dig a small hole into the sand, and put a finger inside to see how hot the earth feels just beneath the surface!

For those with an interest in Science, four reflectors dot the sandy terrain.  They work with two satellites of the European Space Agency (ESA) to reflect their signals and map the volcano’s ground deformations.

Gallery of Bay of Naples, Italy Trip 2018