In the middle of May I spent 2 weeks in Naples, in the South of Italy. Because I’ve heard so much about the small volcanic crater, the “solfatara” which is located in the adjacent city, called Pozzuoli, I decided to visit it. I must admit that I liked it much better than the Vesuvius! (Pozzuoli is easily reached by train from Rome on Naples Metro line 2, and by the trains of “Cumana” lines leaving from the station of Monte Santo, in the city center).
Pozzuoli and Sophia
We took the train from Naples in order to reach the small village. After 25 minutes we arrived at Pozzuoli’s station. For the big disappointment of the taxi drivers we decided to walk the city on foot. First we visited the famous Flavian amphitheater, which is the third largest amphitheater after the Colosseum and the Capuan Amphitheater in Italy then we continued our way on the via/street Solfatara which was supposed to led us to the national park. During our walk we discovered that under number five of via Solfatara lived Sophia Loren (in the forties). However growing up in the slums of Pozzuoli during the second World War without any support from her father, she experienced much sadness in her childhood. On the top of that during World War II the harbour and munitions plant in Pozzuoli was a frequent bombing target of the Allies. In her biography, Sophia Loren mentioned that during the war the local people were so afraid that if one bomb reached the volcano the entire village would sink. But luckily it didn’t happen. After the war, Loren’s grandmother, Luisa opened a pub in their living room, selling homemade cherry liquor. Romilda Villani played the piano, her sis Maria sang and Loren waited on tables and washed dishes. The place was popular with the American GIs stationed nearby.
Leaving behind the small red house of Sophia we arrived at the entrance of Solfatara. For 7 euros entrance fee we could get in. Since it is in the middle of a national park we walk for a while between gorgeous trees and bushes then at the end of the path we arrive in the valley of solfatara. But what is solfatara? Scientifically it is a shallow volcanic crater, in the part of the Campi Flegrei volcanic area. It is a dormant volcano, which still emits jets of steam with sulfurous fumes. The name comes from the Latin, Sulpha terra, “land of sulfur”, or “sulfur earth”. It was formed around 4000 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 also well known for its bradyseism. The vapours have been used for medical purposes since Roman times. Nowadays it’s claimed that the fumes are natural Viagra. At least, that’s what the local male population likes to believe. When our walk ended we returned to the station and in the afternoon we visited the mount Vesuvius…The solfatara was a wonderful experience if, like me, you have no experience of a volcanic landscape.