Volcano Solfatara – Camping in a steaming, bubbling crater

After admiring the mighty Volcano of Mt Vesuvius from our Sorrento campsite for 6 nights and then seeing its destructive power first hand in the ruins of Pompeii, who wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to sleep inside the crater of a real life volcano?

Just an hour and a half north of Sorrento, only 10km outside of Naples, we found the volcanic region known as the Phlegrean Fields. Within them is Volcano Solfatara, the mythical entrance to the Ancient Romans’ Hell, still steaming and bubbling away and yet with a camp ground right in the centre of the crater!

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It’s a strange feeling sleeping inside the crater, although the Volcano is apparently far from its active days, you can’t help but wonder as you stroll through its barron moonscape, gazing up at the crater walls trapping you in on all sides, feeling the heat through your shoes, seeing the steam squeezing from the ground all around you, watching the mud baths bubbling at 140 degrees, and even in the dark of night, as you are trying to get to sleep, there is a constant reminder of exactly where you are as the strong smell of Sulfur Gas wafts on the breeze.

Obvious thoughts were going through Ari’s head too, as he came out with questions sporadically like, “if the Volcano erupts will it be fast flowing or slow flowing lava?”, references made in his Dragon audio books and confirmed for him when we read the information around Pompeii, and “if it’s fast flowing, is it faster than running”, and “which way would the lava flow”, and “where would the ash go?”, he wasn’t too stressed though, his main focus was studying the scientific monitoring equipment spread around the crater, and swimming in the pool, which was unnaturally warm compared with everywhere else we have been, and he had no trouble sleeping at night.

This crater has a number of features, I won’t regurgitate all the information, but for memories sake here is a summary: It was used as a Roman Spa until 1800 renowned for its mineral waters, natural saunas and mud; there is The Bocca Grande, the largest sulfur steam ‘Fumarola’, with traces of rare arsenic sulphur crystals; The Stufe Antiche, an ancient structure built over two steaming sulphurous vapour jets as natural saunas, known in ancient times as ‘Hell’ and ‘Purgatory’; The Fangaia, the natural boiling mud baths averaging 140 degrees; Pozzo Acqua Minerale, an ancient stone well famous since the middle ages as a source of mineral water said to have miraculous powers for the cure of sterility and ulcers; and,The Mine, remains of old mining activity of alum and lime that peaked in the middle ages.

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Ari has become so interested in the Volcano’s that we couldn’t resist buying him a Volcano Making Kit, it takes a few days to make and set from a plaster mould, paint and then to mix an erupting cocktail.

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The nearby town of Pozzouli was also quite important in its Roman days, it has a large port, a major Ampitheatre (Colosseum style) and Botanic Gardens, and there’s a nice restaurant lined esplanade with a lovely busy little rocky beach, it’s also good for Gelati and Coffee.

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3 Responses to Volcano Solfatara – Camping in a steaming, bubbling crater

  1. Jo says:

    I love ‘ sleeping inside the volcano’! Course, as I read it to Lily, was asking how they erupt, which lead to discussion of tectonic plates- pretty heavy going for a 4 yr old!!

    Love the account of your adventures xxx

    • Ha, I can believe she took it all in too, her teachers will love hearing all about it tomorrow. Jo, you will not believe me I am sure, but the day you wrote to the last post (4 July) we were walking through Venice and completely out of the blue Skye said “I need to write to Jo”! Freaky coincidence. Good to hear from you, hope you are all well. 

  2. Neal says:

    fascinating place, for a moment I was concerned Ari was pouring Skye wine supplies into the volcano…

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