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The Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei) are an eight square mile area west of Naples made up of twenty-four volcanoes and craters. This region has fewer tourists and eye-popping sites, and provides an escape from the bustle of downtown Naples and the crowds of Pompeii ,. Kids can wander a mars-like terrain of the still active Solfatara volcano that the Romans once called the ‘Forum Vulcani’ or ‘The House of the God of Fire’. Two vents named ‘La Bocca Grande’ or ‘The Large Mouth’ endlessly belch sulfuric steam, and mud lakes sizzle.
About a fifteen-minute drive from Solfatara, the hilltop settlement of Cuma dates back to the 8th century B.C when the Greeks colonized the area. The trapezoidal fortification is where the Sibyl uttered her dual-meaning predictions. A short distance from Cuma, the ‘Grotto della Sibilla’ lies on Lake Averno . The 300-meter tunnel leads to a corridor, which many claim is the entrance to Hades.
From Lake Averno road signs take the visitor to a vast complex of Roman baths at the Archeological Park of Baia. The three terraces overlooking the sea include theaters, swimming pools, forums, and arched hallways. Not far from these ruins, the Baia Castle towers over a cliff. It is believed to be near the summer residence of Julius Caesar.
The port town of Pozzuoli has restaurants along the water and a perfectly preserved Flavian Amphitheater that once held 40,000 spectators. It’s easy to tour the amphitheatre’s underground passages and animal holding cells, and imagine yourself as a gladiator during Roman times.
In downtown Naples, hidden sights include:
1. Roman marketplace beneath the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore off Via Gregorio Armeno
2. 14th century frescoes inside the church of San Giovanni a Carbonara on Via Foria
3. Altars to honor the dead & “adoption” of abandoned bones inside Santa Maria della Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco church off Via Tribunali
4. Carbonized papyrus scrolls from Pompeii inside the National Library at the Royal Palace (call first to make tour arrangements)
5. 4th century catacombs of San Gaudioso underneath the church of Santa Maria della Sanita in the Sanita district north of the National Archeology Museum
6. Great views from peaceful Villa Floridiana park in the Vomero district above the city