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Phlegraean Fields – What to see and why visit them?

The Phlegraean Fields represent a fascinating volcanic area located in the Campania region, in southern Italy. With its unique geological history, the breathtaking beauty of its landscapes and its important historical testimonies, the Phlegraean Fields are an ideal destination for lovers of nature and culture.

The term “Phlegraean Fields” derives from the Latin “Campi Phlegraei”, which means “fiery fields”. This name was given to the region due to its past volcanic activity and the numerous craters present in the area. The presence of volcanoes, fumaroles and thermal springs makes this area a place of great geological and scientific interest.

What to see in the Phlegraean Fields?

The place offers a variety of breathtaking landscapes that capture the imagination. From the evocative volcanic calderas, such as Lake Averno and Lake Fusaro, to the green hills that extend to the coast, the area offers a unique mix of natural and volcanic elements. The panoramic view of the coast and the Gulf of Naples adds a touch of unparalleled beauty.

The Solfatara represents one of the main attractions of the area. This active volcano has a smoking crater and offers the opportunity to observe geothermal activity up close. The presence of fumaroles, boiling mud pools and thermal springs testifies to the underground energy that still permeates the region. Places such as the Solfatara and the Astroni Volcano offer the opportunity to explore these phenomena up close and understand the power of nature.

The region is rich in archaeological sites of great historical and cultural importance. One of the most famous is the Archaeological Park of Cuma, one of the oldest Greek colonies in Italy, with its Temple of Apollo and the Sibyl’s Cave. Other sites of interest include the Casina Vanvitelliana in Bacoli and the Flavian Amphitheater in Pozzuoli. The latter, often called the “little Colosseum” due to its resemblance to the amphitheater of Rome, is an ancient Roman amphitheater that could accommodate up to 20,000 spectators. It is an impressive place to visit to admire the well-preserved Roman architecture.

Flavian Amphitheater in Pozzuoli

Another place that is definitely worth a visit is Baia. This important Roman city is known for the luxury villas built along the coast. Some of these villas are now submerged due to rising sea levels, offering a unique scuba diving opportunity to explore the remains of ancient grandeur.

History and mythology of the Phlegraean Fields

Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metallurgy, occupies a prominent place in the mythology of the Phlegraean Fields. His forging of weapons and precious objects was believed to occur within the region’s volcanoes, such as the Solfatara. The continued volcanic activity of the area was explained as the incandescent work of Vulcan.

The hot springs in the area were considered sacred to Apollo, the Greek god of healing and the arts. Baia was home to a famous temple of Apollo, known for its healing hot springs. People came here to seek healing from illnesses and to relax in the warm waters. Cuma was home to the famous oracle of Apollo, where priests held uncomfortable prophecies. The Cumaean Sibyl, the priestess of the oracle, is believed to have inspired many legends about the ability to predict the future.

Finally, the Phlegraean Fields were associated with the Roman underworld (the Elysian Fields). The entrance to the afterlife was believed to be located in this region, with Lake Avernus serving as the gateway to the world of the dead. This belief has been immortalized in the works of authors such as Virgil, who described the Roman afterlife in his epic poem, the Aeneid.

The geological phenomenon of Bradyseism

Typical of the area is the phenomenon of subsidence (lowering of the ground) called Bradyseism. This phenomenon is caused by the movements of the underlying magma chambers, which expand and contract in response to volcanic processes. The volcanic activity of the Phlegraean Fields can generate an increase in pressure inside the magma chambers, which in turn causes deformations of the ground.

To fully understand bradyseism in the Phlegraean Fields, it is necessary to take a journey into geological history. This region has been shaped by millennia of volcanic activity and is home to famous volcanoes such as Monte Nuovo, Solfatara and the infamous supervolcano, Monte Epomeo.

The term “bradyseism” comes from ancient Greek and means “slow movement”. And that’s exactly what happens here. Over the centuries, the soil of the Phlegraean Fields has risen and lowered in an apparently random way. This movement is often induced by underground volcanic activities and the buildup of heat and pressure. Bradyseism can be fast or slow, but either way, it is an essential part of life in this region.

Constant studies and monitoring are underway to better understand bradyseism in the Phlegraean Fields. This region is still active and subject to volcanic eruptions. Its geological history and the mysteries of bradyseism are a constant reminder of the power of nature. The beauty of the Phlegraean Fields is constantly evolving, making this place an extraordinary destination for lovers of geology, ecology and natural beauty.

Scientists have identified two key phases in the bradyseism cycle: inflation and deflation. During the inflation phase, the ground slowly rises. Then, during the deflation phase, the ground gradually returns to its original level. This cycle continues in a seemingly unpredictable way and can cause significant environmental changes such as the lowering of some land below sea level and resulting coastal flooding.

In summary, the Campi Flegrei are a fascinating destination for anyone interested in geology, nature and ancient history. The region offers a unique experience that mixes past and present in a context of extraordinary natural beauty.