Monday, February 11, 2013

The Archaeological Park at Cuma

With just over five months left of our stay here in Italy (where is the time going?) we have realized that we've done most of the main attractions in the Naples area, several times;  however, we haven't explored many of the nooks and crannies in Campi Flegrei (Phlegraean Fields), the area in which we live. And there are A LOT! I've made a list of things to see in our area, all within fifteen minutes of our house, and all of which we should be able to visit before our time is up in July. The book "The Espresso Break" by Barbara Zaragoza has been really useful in giving us some background information on these hidden gems. It's an excellent local travel book written by a wife who was stationed here with her husband for three years. So if you live in the Naples area, are traveling in this area, or are just up for an interesting read, then I highly suggest picking this up or reading her blog here.

Taken from here
We started the list with an attraction very close to our house (maybe seven minutes away) - the Archaeological Park at Cuma. Cuma plays an important role in a lot of Greek mythology tales that we've heard over the years. Ulysses and Aeneas both landed here, the Cyclopes roamed here, and the entrance to Hades is through Lake Avernus (Lago D'Averno) which is the lake that we have a view of from our house. Cuma, though, is perhaps best known as the home of the Sibyl, the priestess of Apollo. There were many sibyls in different locations in the ancient world, but the Sibyl at Cuma was of most importance to the Romans since she was closest to Rome. Virgil's account of the Sibyl's cave in Book Six of Aeneid also illustrates the importance of the Cumaean Sibyl. Legend has it that the Sibyl didn't mention eternal youth when she bargained with Apollo for eternal life, and thus winded up an old hag-delivering prophecy, withering into something so small she eventually fit into a bottle that was hung on the wall, still proclaiming prophecies from within her numerous chambered grotto.

We walked down a tree lined path to a trapezoidal passage known as the Antro della Sibilla. This is where the Cumaean Sibyl may have written down her oracles on oak leaves that blew away. However, if the wind blew the leaves away she would not help to reassemble them to form the original prophecy.

The temples at Cuma were next, which we found after we climbed a flight of stairs and after we came to a breathtaking view of the Bay of Naples with the island of Ischia in the background.

A train passing by. 
From the lookout point

Jon at one of the lookout points

A little further up the hill we came to the Temple of Apollo, which is nothing more than a series of flattened stones. We then came to a second terrace where the Temple of Jupiter stands.

Temple of Apollo

Temple of Jupiter

Walking back towards the parking lot, there is an expansive complex that spreads out below. It includes the Tomb of the Sibyl, a Greek agora later becoming a Samnite forum, thermal baths, a necropolis, and a lot of original marble pieces scattered everywhere. It's amazing that this used to be a thriving city that sat along the water.

Thermal baths
We learned so much by going to this archaeological site and we can't believe that after being so close to it for a year and a half that we hadn't been here yet. One down, many more to go!

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe all the wonderful and fascinating sights that are in Naples! Just when you think you saw it all, there's something else out there to discover! So much to do and so much to see! It still amazes me when I see the pics of these structures that they are still standing from over 2,000 years ago! It's unbelievable! When I look at the pics, I try to imagine and wonder what kind of life they led back then, and for just a very short time, I think about it, and I am transported to a completely different time and place. Just think, this amazing place, right in your own backyard! I can't wait to find out what other exciting places there are in Naples!