Situated in the volcanic coastal area known as the Phlegrean Fields, surrounded on three sides by the sea, the Rione Terra was the first inhabited area in Pozzuoli. Founded on a small acropolis to control the arrival of enemy troops and the offloading of goods, the district is literally overrun with bits and pieces of past civilizations, from the first years of Greek and Roman colonization to the present time. However, it was under the Romans that it achieved its greatest splendour: prior to the founding of Ostia, Pozzuoli was Rome’s largest port. With the decline of the Roman Empire, it saw a succession of different civilizations.
Despite being a working class area, until the 1960s, Rione Terra was one of the city’s most vibrant centres. On 2 March 1970, the stronghold was evacuated following one of the most severe events of bradyseism in the history of Putèoli and abandoned until the early 1990s when the authorities finally decided to restore what had formerly been the beating heart of a city boasting thousands of years of history.
Today, beneath Rione Terra, there lies a virtually untouched Roman town. Archaeologists have excavated and restored a four thousand square metre area of the ancient Roman acropolis and its entire underground urban fabric. You can now see the two main arteries of the acropolis flanked by millers’ shops, ancient taverns and the houses of fishermen. The excavations have not only restored precious Greek and African marbles to the public, but also countless ceramics and architectural remnants.
Entering the archaeological area beneath Rione Terra is like taking a trip back in times. Following years of excavations (which are still under way), visiting the ancient stronghold involves discovering even the minutest details of its storied past. A deeply moving experience!
Largo Sedile di Porto, Pozzuoli, Naples. T: 848800288 081526607 www.rioneterra.it
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