This small, lively town was once the Greek colony of Dicearchia, founded in 530 B.C.; it then became the Roman Puteoli in 194 B.C., an important Roman harbor favored by the Roman emperors over Partenope (Naples), which had maintained closer allegiance to Greece. The town was destroyed by the barbarian Alaric in A.D. 410, but the acropolis, on a tufa-stone promontory pushing into the sea, continued to be inhabited, and modern Pozzuoli slowly developed around it. Because the town is just a few kilometers from Naples, you'd expect it to be downright suburban, but it maintains a life of its own -- even though many of its residents commute to Naples for work each day. The town boasts unique monuments from its past as well as sweeping views over the sea and the islands of Ischia and Procida in one direction, and the island of Nisita (linked to the mainland by a causeway) on the other.
Visitor Information -- The tourist office, Largo Matteotti 1A, 80078 Napoli (tel. 081-5266639 or 081-5261481; www.infocampiflegrei.it), dispenses information on Pozzuoli, the Phlegrean Fields region, and the province of Naples and its islands.
Getting There -- Pozzuoli is very well connected by public transportation to Naples and the islands, particularly to Ischia and Procida. The most scenic way to arrive in Pozzuoli is by city bus: No. 152 starts in Piazza Garibaldi near Naples's Stazione Centrale and traverses the whole city, following the shoreline to the center of Pozzuoli -- picturesque, but slow. Less scenic but faster is the Metro (line 2) or the Cumana Railroad (tel. 800-053939), starting from Piazza Montesanto.
Getting Around -- Taxis (tel. 081-5265800) operate from a stand in Piazza della Repubblica. You can also use the buses operated by Consorzio Trasporti Pubblici (tel. 800-482644; www.ctpn.it) and EAV (tel. 800-053939; www.eavbus.it), with several lines connecting the train and Metro stations to the harbor and other parts of the Phlegrean Fields.
The dormant volcano crater (770m/2,550 ft. in diameter) that is today known as Solfatara was called "Forum Vulcani" by the ancients, who believed it to be the residence of the god Vulcan. Extinct it may be, but the lunar landscape spews sulfurous steam that hisses out of the ground in steaming jets, or fumaroles, that reach a temperature of 160°C (320°F). With the heavy stench of rotten eggs in the air, you can walk around the crater, stand in the clouds of steam, and marvel over the Bocca Grande, the largest fumarole. No wonder it was a favorite stop on the Grand Tour (the obligatory educational trip through Europe taken by any aristocrat worth his title in the 19th c.). At the center of the crater is the Fangaia, an area of hot mud that gently bubbles away at a temperature of 140°C (284°F); you can understand why the ancient Romans believed this to be the entrance to hell. We highly recommend a visit here for children and adults alike.
Getting There -- The park is 10km (6 1/4 miles) from Naples. The easiest means of travel is the Metro (line 2) to Pozzuoli-Solfatara station, which is only about 732m (2,400 ft.) from the entrance to the park. You can walk the distance or catch the local P9 bus from outside the Metro station. City bus no. 152 from Naples to Pozzuoli also stops at Solfatara. You can also walk the 1.6km (1 mile) -- a 20-minute trek uphill from Pozzuoli. A taxi from Naples is a flat rate of 40€ one-way to Solfatara.
On the coastal stretch that bounds the Gulf of Pozzuoli to the west, the fishing town of Baia maintains something of its picturesque past, with pastel-colored buildings opening onto a small harbor. Ancient Roman Baia was a flourishing seaside resort adjacent to the large harbor Portus Julius. Due to the geological phenomenon of bradyseism, many of the ancient structures have been preserved underwater, creating a unique submerged archaeological area.
Getting There -- Baia is well connected to Pozzuoli public transportation. Or take a taxi, either from Pozzuoli's Metro station (agree on the price beforehand; it should cost around 25€) or from Naples, where taxis offer a flat rate of 85€ for a round-trip to the archaeological area of Baia and Solfatara with a 3-hour wait.
Easily overlooked, this special little place is where the ancient Greeks founded Cumae, their first stable colony in the western Mediterranean, giving birth to what would become Magna Grecia. The peninsula today is a trifle more built-up, but enough remains for one to imagine Cuma high atop a promontory, dominating the Phlegrean Fields peninsula, and overlooking what at the time was a green expanse of land interspersed with volcanic lakes and surrounded by the sea on both sides. The city of Cumae proved to be the most important Greek colony on this coast, keeping the Etruscans and later the Romans at bay.
Getting There -- Although local EAV buses are available from Pozzuoli and the nearby Fusaro stop of the Cumana train line (tel. 800-053939; www.sepsa.it), a taxi from Pozzuoli is a more comfortable option.