Perched on a steep cliff, Baia Castle, as it is known, was thought to be the summer residence of Julius Caesar. Archeologists, however, theorize that the villa actually belonged to Emperor Nero. Whatever the truth, by the late 15th century the Aragonese built a castle above the ancient Roman ruins and the fortress became an outlook point designed to scare pirates away from the shores.
During the 16th century, Barbary Pirates seized ships throughout the Mediterranean, but even during Roman times (ca. 70 B.C.) powerful Cicilian and Cretan pirates circled waters around Puteoli. They wanted, most of all, to capture slaves and bring them to the Delos market for sale. Because policing the waters proved difficult for the Romans, the owners constructed this fortress on a cliff with sheer walls that couldn’t be climbed. When the Romans did capture pirates, they weren’t taken as slaves, but were settled in deserted places of the empire. Virgil, in the Georgics, wrote about one pirate who became a gardener in Cicilia and was renowned for his early blooms.
The outside terraces of Baia castle tout stunning views of the sea. Inside, the Archeological Museum of Campi Flegrei has a long stretch of rooms displaying marble statues and a multitude of other ancient artifacts found in this area.
Don’t miss two important sights: The Domitian-Nerva is the only equestrian bronze statue to survive from ancient times.The Nymphaeum Triclinium of Claudius depicts a Roman dining room as it might have looked during the reign of Emperor Claudius, with marble statues in alcoves. The front niche depicts Odysseus offering black wine to a Cyclops as told in Homer’s Odyssey. Baio (or Bajos) stands on the opposite side of Odysseus, squeezing a wineskin. Baio was said to have been Odysseus’ navigator who died and was buried somewhere in Baia – hence how the city gets its name.