Set on the promontory of Posillipo hill is the one time villa of Publius Vedius Pollio (died 15 BC), friend of Emperor Augustus and a vicious and cruel (according to Pliny the Elder) eel breeding mogul. Bequeathed to Augustus at Pollio’s death, the villa and its grounds once covered an area of nine hectares, and included a 1st century BC Nymphaeum at the water’s edge, now known as Palazzo degli Spiriti.
Though much of the site has been lost to time or submerged underwater, remains dating from the first century BC to the 4th century AD have been discovered, including part of the 2000 seat amphitheatre that was built along the natural slope of the hill. There are also remains of an Odeon, a smaller theatre that would have been used for musical performances and poetry readings as well as evidence of a thermal bath complex and a vineyard.
Entrance to the site is through a 770 meter tunnel, the Grotta di Seiano. First built by Lucio Cocceio Aucto to connect Villa Pausilypon with the other villas in the area and Naples with the ports of Cuma and Pozzuoli, it takes its name from Lucius Aelius Seianus (Sejanus). A confidant of the Emperor Tiberius, he commissioned the tunnel’s enlargement in the 1st century AD. The tunnel was rediscovered and restored in the mid 1800s and was used as an air raid shelter during WWII.
Guided tours available daily, call +39 081 2403235.
Monday – Saturday without a guide, entrance at 0900, 1030, 1130, but call +39 081 2301030 before arriving
Entrance to the site is free, guided tours are €5,00
During the warm months, AMP Gaiola offers a guided tour of the Grotto and Pausilypon followed by a glass bottom boat tour of the Gaiola Underwater Park.