NERONE 4

The Emperor Nero and Campi Flegrei thermal baths

«Balnea vina venus corrumpunt corpora nostra sed vitam faciunt»

«Bathing, wine and love ruin our bodies, but they make life worth living»

Tito Claudio Secondo, own Emperor Claudius’ former slave  

For the Romans, the baths played a fundamental role in social life. They were a meeting place to which everyone had access, even the plebs. In addition to swimming pools, they also provided libraries, walking areas, and gymnasia. Indeed, the Romans themselves coined the famous expression “mens sana in corpore sano” which means “a healthy mind in a healthy body“.

Basically, for the Romans, baths were one of life’s pleasures, a cult. Just think of the famous tomb inscription of Titus Claudius II, Emperor Claudius’s former slave. Balnea vina venus corrumpunt corpora nostra sed vitam faciunt» which stands for «bathing, wine and love ruin our bodies, but they make life worth living». These words became a popular expression.

Emperor Nero, of course, was no different. He built a complex in the Campus Martius in 64 A.D., whose majestic columns can still be seen today near the Pantheon. The famous Stufe di Nerone or Nero’s Baths in the Campi Flegrei, as you might think, are not related to the emperor. As a matter of fact, they owe their name to an unfortunate event, namely the murder of his mother Agrippina, in this area.

The baths were already known as Terme Silviane, in honour of Rhea Silvia, Romulus and Remus’ mother and goddess of fertility. In Roman times, they were called Terme di Baia (Baths of Baia). The most outstanding personalities used to meet here: apart from Nero, names such as Julius Caesar, Cicero, Seneca, Caligula, Domitian and Hadrian stood out.

The healing power of these waters and the charm of the surrounding landscape attracted the consul Gnaeus Cornelius in 178, who cured arthritis there. The evocative places and magical atmosphere inspired many writers and poets. According to the poet Horace, «No gulf in the world is more resplendent than the pleasant Baia». Cicero, on the other hand, called it “pusilla Roma“, namely “little Rome”, as it became a cultural, recreational, and social centre.

Even according to Pliny the Elder, profound lover of the area, there was nowhere else that could boast such an abundance of water as the Bay of Baia. The Stufe di Nerone, set in the splendid scenery of the Campi Flegrei, still retain their prestige and fame as the oldest thermal springs in Italy. A combination of history and wellbeing: a deep link with the territory and a glorious past. Here we can still admire the footsteps of a great civilisation: the Romans.

Even today, the Stufe di Nerone or Terme di Pozzuoli still offer harmony between body and mind. They are ideal for thermal cures and finding one’s well-being in a genuine and natural context. The thermal waters, which flow out at 74°, are rich in elements used for therapeutic purposes to treat diseases such as rheumatism or arthrosis. There are two thermal pools, one indoors (40°) and one outdoors (35°), and two thermal stoves heated by the thermal waters below. In other words, it is a sort of sauna inside the caves. The temperature (about 53°) in this environment, already rich in mineral salts, creates the ideal conditions for the so-called anthrotherapy. A humid microclimate improves water exchange and the vascular system, preventing diseases such as arteriosclerosis.

The thermal baths, open all year round, are an important recreational and social centre, just as they were for the Romans. Inside, about twenty hot and cold thermal springs give life to two characteristic small lakes. The typical Phlegraean vegetation surrounds this regenerating and relaxing context, where nothing is left to chance.

The Stufe di Nerone are just 10 km from Al Chiar di Luna and can be easily reached by car.

 

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