Situated sixteen miles north of Naples within the fertile plains of the Caserta province, Capua dates back to at least the 7th century B.C. when Etruscans and Euboean Greeks settled the area. Today, the ancient city lies mostly underneath the modern town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
The amphitheater is easy to find at the center of Capua. It’s the second largest in Italy next to the coliseum in Rome. The amphitheater is open so visitors can roam the vaulted corridors, the gladiator field, and the underground tunnels where once elaborate stage machinery as well as caged animals were kept.
A Gladiator Museum next to the amphitheater contains two rooms of artifacts as well as a display of fighting gladiators. At one time, Capua boasted the best gladiator schools that trained both slaves and freemen. Spartacus, the leader who led the slave revolt in 73 B.C. against Rome, first distinguished himself as a gladiator in the Capua amphitheater.
The travel tip for Capua is to make sure to ask at the entrance gate to see the Sanctuary of Mithras. (It’s the only way to gain access.)