The Phlegrean area is rich in artificial cavities. The caves scattered over the vast territory of Campi Flegrei have different origins, structures and functions, but each visit guarantees an unforgettable experience. Below, we highlight the most famous ones that visitors can see today.
The Sibyl’s Cave
The so-called Antro della Sibilla (Sibyl’s Cave) is the most famous construction in the entire Archaeological Park of Cumae. It locates in the lower part of the acropolis and dates back to the Samnite age. It is 5 metres high and about 130 metres long. It consists of several ramifications on both sides, some of which served as a cistern to collect rainwater and others to give the cave light and air. Following its discovery, this suggestive place has been given several interpretations. The most accredited theory would interpret it as a military defence tunnel.
The legend says Apollo fell in love with Sibyl, a mortal woman. He would grant her any wish she expressed to have her at his side as a priestess. The young woman asked to be immortal, but the desire concealed a trap: she would have eternal life, but not youth. So, as her body grew older, she became smaller and smaller, to the point that Apollo could put her in a cage and keep her in his temple. The woman’s mortal body then deteriorated so much that she disappeared and only her voice survived in the end. According to the myth, Sibyl’s voice became the oracle Aeneas consulted during his journey.
The discovery of the Cave and its subsequent naming is due to Maiuri. In his research for the places described by Virgil, the Italian architect managed to identify the cave containing a mysterious place with a hundred doors. Sibyl’s answers were said to come to those who came to ask for a solution to their troubles. Whether or not it corresponds to what Virgil wrote about, Sybil’s Cave has now gained worldwide fame. The suggestive play of light created by the side openings fascinates visitors every year. They cannot help but feel surrounded by the myth.
The Cave of Seiano
The Cave of Seiano was discovered in the first half of the 18th century. It locates at the end of Coroglio, near Capo Posillipo (Naples). This area is crossed by an enchanting scenic route that connects the hill of Posillipo with the district of Bagnoli. The tunnel dates back to Roman times and owes its name to Emperor Tiberius‘ prefect of the same name. The tunnel is dug into the Posillipo hill for 800 metres and connects Campi Flegrei and Bagnoli with the Gaiola valley. The route is suggestive: inside the cavity, shadows and penumbra create a spectacle of light that radiates onto the walls of the side tunnels. The position overlooking the panorama of Trentaremi Bay makes the visit an unparalleled experience.
The archaeological area of Pausilypon
Through a path adorned with the wonder of Mediterranean vegetation, the cave leads to the archaeological area of Pausilypon, the place where you have a ‘respite from your troubles‘. Here are the ancient remains of a huge Roman villa, a small theatre called Odeion, a large theatre built on the Greek models, and an ancient temple.
The Cave of Dragonara
The Cave of Dragonara is an ancient Roman cistern located at the eastern end of the beautiful Miseno beach. The cavity is completely excavated in the tufa wall and, due to the phenomenon of bradyseism, it is currently semi-submerged. The Cave is about 60 m long and contains several side tunnels that intertwine to give a labyrinthine effect. The water invading the monument makes the visit a truly emotional experience.
How to reach the caves from Al Chiar di Luna
Sibyl’s Cave: by car or taxi (about 15 minutes);
The Cave of Seiano: by car or taxi (approximately 35 minutes), by public transport (around 1 hour 15 minutes);
The Cave of Dragonara: by car or taxi (about 15 minutes).