Start & Finish: Via Italia, Pozzuoli / Sat Nav: Parking & start of walk 40.836134, 14.079106 / Total distance: 2.81km / Start Elevation: 12m / Ascent: 36m / Gain: 42m / Typical Duration: 45mins / Category: Easy
This is a great little stroll around Lago di Averno, a volcanic crater lake in the heart of the Campi Flegri, to the west of Pozzuoli. It’s flat and completely straightforward – ideal for children and dogs.
In Virgil’s Aeneid, it is from Lago d’Averno that Aeneas descends into the underworld. It’s hard to imagine hell in such a bucolic setting, where old vineyards and citrus groves fringe the ancient crater. The lake’s name stems from the Greek work άορνος, meaning ‘without birds’: according to legend, birds who flew over the lake would fall out of the sky. Scientists have since suggested that this was from poisonous volcanic gases from the lake’s fumaroles. While it may have been unlucky for birds, Lago d’Averno proved useful to Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, who in 37 BC linked it to nearby Lago Lucrino and the sea, turning hell’s portal into a strategic naval dockyard. The battleships may have gone, but the lakeside ruins of the Tempio di Apollo (Temple of Apollo) remain. Built during the reign of Hadrian in the 2nd century AD, this thermal complex once sported a domed roof almost the size of the Pantheon’s in Rome. Sadly, only four great arched windows survive but they are still very impressive.
Drive right to the end of Via Italia (before it curves left) and park on the right hand side. You will see a small cafe in front of you on the edge of the lake. Go right here onto a nice wide trail (Via Lago d’Averno Lato Destro). Follow this towards the ruins of the Temple of Apollo which will be very obvious up ahead. Continue on until the lakeside track finishes – it forks right up and takes you between some buildings onto the road. To your right you’ll see a short road up to a tunnel entrance. This is the Cocceius Tunnel built in 38-36 BC. It’s a straight subterranean gallery nearly a 1km in length which connects Lago di Averno with Cuma and was part of Agrippa’s project to turn the lake into a port but it is no longer open to the public. Go straight on and follow the road back all the way round the lake to the car.