Art and Culture

Solfatara Volcano - Naples

The History of the Volcano

The Romans already knew the Solfatara since Imperial times.
Strabone (66 b.C. - 24 a.C.) gives the most ancient written testimony coming to us in his "Strabonis geographica", indicating it with the name "Forum Vulcani", dwelling of the God Vulcano, entrance to Hades.
The Solfatara opens up officially to visitors in the year 1900, although it was since time immemorial destination for its renown vulcanic phenomena, for the therapeutic properties of the sulphurous waters and for the hot saunas; it was in fact included among the forty most famous thermae of the Phlegreaen Fields since the Middle Ages.
There was no traveller of the 18th and 19th century who wouldn't place the Solfatara among his excursions within the so called "Grand Tour", educational travel for the young scions of the European noble families.
Around 1900 a thermal establishment was organised within the Solfatara, as a publicity leaflet and illustrated print of the time can well testify.
In this "thermal bath" it was possible to cure oneself with mud, given the existence of a natural mud pit, and with the sulphurous water as well as bathe in the vapors of the so called saunas.
An extractive activity of alume, sulphur and bianchetto since the beginning of the 20th century operating, an activity which found its heyday during the Middle Ages.

The Solfatara of Pozzuoli is without a doubt the most interesting Volcano of the Phlegreaen Fields, an area north of Naples made up by approx. 40 ancient volcanoes.
In its environs there are places of incredible historical interest such as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Acropolis of Cuma, the Thermae of Baia, the Temple of Serapides.
Spanning approximately 33 hectares, it is a wildlife preservation site which offers the starting point for an interesting hike with the presence, in addition to the renown volcanic phenomena, such as the "fumaroles", the "mofete" and small "mud volcanoes", even of woods and areas of Mediterranean maquis as well as natural, geological and botanical-faunal wonders.
The Solfatara of Pozzuoli offers the opportunity for a easy and peaceful hike in an area full of natural greenery, far from the bustling and noise of the city.
Private vehicles and tourist buses can take advantage of a parking area in the spots close to the entrance, the walk way is only for pedestrians.
Many signs and informative signboards accompany the visitor along the pathway and provide useful information on the many characteristical points and the natural peculiarities.
The visit to the Solfatara goes back to ancient times since it was one of the necessary stops of the "Grand Tour", an educational and leisure trip that the European aristocrats would accomplish especially in Italy and France already in the 18th century.
The average length of the visit is 45 minutes; a restoration area full of trees allows to stop during the hike.
All this can be better appreciated with the presence of one of our authorised Tourist Guides in the area at their posts.
During the visit to the Volcano two phenomena can be observed which cause awe and amazement to the visitor: the "condensation of vapor" and the "rumble of the ground".
The condensation of vapor is one of the more dazzling phenomena of the Solfatara, and it is that of condensation of water vapor which is obtained placing a small flame close to the fumarole: the vapors appear gradually stronger since both the tiny solid particles produced through combustion as well as the ions of the atmospheric gas close to the flame behave from condensation nuclei of the vapor itself.
The rumble of the ground is another shocking phenomenon is that caused by a rock, which, left to fall to the ground from a small height, in certain points of the crater, causes a dull rumble which gives the feeling of the presence of large underground cavities.
Actually, they are only micro cavities produced from the gas of the fumaroles in a ground of its nature pretty porous.
The main tourist attractions are: the "Bubbling Mud Pit", the "Large Mouth" (the main fumarole), the "Well" (of mineral water) and the "Ancient Saunas" (natural saunas).

The Bubbling Mud Pit is made up by rainwater and vapor condensation, which mix with the clay type material present on the surface of the crater.
The gas composition which spews out from the mud pit is varying (H2S, N2O, H2O, CH4, He, C); the liquid composition is as rich (Boron, Sodium, Magnesium, Vanadium, Arsenic, Zinc, Iodine, Antimony, Rubidio and others); the mud so generated naturally is excellent for thermal uses.
The chemical composition of the gas shows a likely origin of the vapors just a few 100 metres underground of the Solfatara, at a temperature ranging between 170° and 250° C.
The dark stripes on the surface of the mud are made up by colonies of bacteria that can withstand the extreme conditions of acidity and temperature, and are considered of great scientific interest.

The Large Mouth - "Bocca Grande" - is the name of the main fumarole of the Solfatara with water vapor temperatures reaching approx. 160° C.
Within the mouth are certain salts contained in the vapor condense, among which realgar (As S), cinabro (Hg S) and arsenic trisulphide (As2 S3) which give a yellow-reddish colour to the surrounding rocks; solfridric acid (H2S) is also present, by the distinguishing "rotten egg" smell.
The area of the Large Mouth was called by the Ancients "Forum Vulcani" that is the dwelling of the God of Fire.
At the start of the 20th century, a small Volcanologic Observatory was built here by the volcanologist Friedlander, of which some ruins still remain; it collapsed, due to the periodic telluric movements connected to the Phlegreaen Bradisism, as well as for the opening of a fumarole.

At least 40 thermal sources of the High Middle Ages were active in the Phlegreaen Fields, among which that of the Solfatara; some of them were to our knowledge already known in the Classical Age.
The thermal waters of the Solfatara were believed to cure the nerves, sight, fevers, diseases of the skin and sterility.
The well presently visible was built in the early years of the 19th century in order to extract alume from the milked water of the underground stratum at about 10 metres deep. Prof. Sebastiano de Luca, renown chemist of the University of Naples, accomplished around 1870 numerous scientific investigations on those waters which resulted rich in alume, sulphur oxydes, calcium solphates, magnesium and other substances.
Water from the Solfatara has a characteristic and bitter taste of lemon to it.
The mineral water was subsequently used to recover the ancient thermal activity which continued up to to beginning of the 20s.
The deepness of the water stratum which feeds the well varies in time and it's relation with the phases of the bradysismic activity is assumed.
The history of the Phlegreaen Fields is periodically crossed by phases of positive Bradysism (raising of the ground) and negative (lowering of the ground); these slow movements have varied the level of the sea to the city of Pozzuoli by a few metres during the centuries.

The Ancient Saunas are two ancient caves dug into the side of the mountain on the northern side around the end of the 1800s for achieving natural sweating rooms, and subsequently coated with masonry.
A few minutes in the cave was all that was necessary, this caused profuse sweating and forced people to breathe heavily the intense sulphurous vapors that spewed out there.
For this reason they were considered excellent for curing respiratory problems, diseases of the skin and rheuma.
The natural sweat rooms were in addition well known since Ancient Times and were one of the thermal attractions of the Phlegreaen Fields.

Pozzuoli, Via Solfatara 161 (Naples)

All days from 8.30 to one hour before sunset

EUR 5,50 Adults
EUR 3,50 for European Union members under 10 years old
Free Entrance for European Union members under 4 years old
20% discount with Campania Artecard

Additional Notes
The Solfatara Volcano is a site of CAMPANIA ARTECARD circuit

How you can get there from the Hotel
From the Piazza Amedeo Station take line 2 on the subway, in the direction of Pozzuoli, and get off in Pozzuoli (seventh stop); proceed by by bus from n° P9: the Solfatara Volcano is in Via Solfatara 161 (at about 800 metres from the Pozzuoli subway Station).

Excursion of Solfatara Volcano is included in itinerary of Phlegraean Fields excursion available and organized by the Hotel.
In order to know all excursion details of Phlegraean Fields kindly click the link below

Solfatara Volcano Excursion


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