The Burning Fields, otherwise known as the Campi Flegrei or Phlegraean Fields (in Italian Campi Flegrei means fields of fire) encompass a cauldron-like region of twenty-four volcanoes and craters, many still bubbling with seismic activity. Geologically, it is one of the most complex volcanic configurations in the world. Today, there is considerable hydrothermal activity in locations such as the Solfatara.
Mythical home of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan, the ground continues to emit steam and boiling, sulfurous mud. Smouldering calderas (from the Latin caldaria, meaning cooking pot), both off and on shore, in various states of collapse and nested one on top of the other, the result of repeated volcanic activity.
The Greeks first settled here on the hilltop of Cuma (also written as Cumae) and centuries later, the Romans, who revered Greek culture, preserved their hilltop acropolis and built opulent gateways replete with villas, bathhouses, and domed temples nearby.
The poet Virgil (70 B.C. – 19 B.C.) is the starting point within this region from which a web of myth and history spins outwards. He spent the last ten years of his life in Naples writing The Aeneid whose protagonist Aeneas leaves Troy and lands on these shores. Virgil roamed this region alongside the rich and famous, describing locations that can still be visited today.
Lakes, grottoes, and temples can still be explored. And yet, since most short-term visitors opt to see Pompeii before dashing off to the next Italian city, these sights tend to remain quiet, desolate even, where exploration can be done without the crush of crowds.