One of my favorite pastimes is Google-walking along cities and volcanoes. I normally try to get hold of an online tourist guide for the area, and then I walk along it flying above the ground alternating with the street view.
Yesterday I was Google-strolling around Campi Flegrei following the guide linked to below. I will one day go and take the real walk, with a couple of added stops on the list that is even more interesting. As I “walked” I found a part that I did not really know about even though I have been in the area before.
The city of Rione Terra was the first settled part of Pozzuoli, the first known Roman habitation hark back to the second century BC. As in most old Roman cities Rione Terra has layers of civilization and buildings layered on top of each other. It is though quite possible that the Greeks came here first in the year of 529 BC and that they used it as a landing fortress for the colony of Cuma.
But it was not until Puteoli was inaugurated as a Roman colony in 194BC that Rione Terra really came into power since the Romans fortified it heavily to protect the harbor. Further fortifications were done when the Romans built their western military base in the area, the Portus Julius.
As the Roman Empire waned from power the city of Puteoli shrank down until not much more then the Rione Terra fortress remained. It was during this era that the city really started to stratigraphy as people tore down the roman buildings and built their shops and homes on top of the old foundations. For instance the cathedral of Pozzuoli was built straight on top of the Augustine Temple.
Terra Rione was a heavily populated up until the sixties, but the place had by the more modern standards of those days started to be seen as heavily unsanitary and unhygienic and was mostly inhabited by the poorest in the City of Pozzuoli.
So, as the first bradyseismic period happened 1970 the authorities closed the Rione Terra and moved its inhabitants. Unlike in other areas the inhabitants were never allowed to return to their former houses. The area was further damaged in the earthquake of 1980, and the second bradyseismic period that followed during the 1980s.
As the two bradyseisms happened one should know that it was far from the first to happen in the area. The largest known is the 6 meter bradyseism that took place in only seven days before the 1538 eruption of Monte Nuovo. After the eruption the land sank down to a level lower then during the Roman days. During the late nineteenth century a couple of bradyseisms lifted the area again. From that time the area slowly sank again up until 1970. The area of Pozzuoli is on average 2 meters lower today than during the Roman times, but that might really change any day.
During the nineties the city started to renovate the old fortress city and while doing that they started a large scale archaeological project that is still ongoing. Among other things an archaeological walkway has been prepared partly under the city showing the old roman foundations and the various stratigraphical layers. Rione Terra has though as of yet not been opened to the public since the renovation are not finished and it is still not deemed safe to admit tourists there.
In the end few places are so inundated with volcanological history, it was after all here the Pliny’s lived and where the younger Pliny wrote the tale of the Pompeian eruption.