Pausilypon, where the struggles fade away

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Glimpse of Gaiola island from above. Sorrento and Capri in the far
Glimpse of Gaiola island from above. Sorrento and Capri in the far

The city. Millions of people, traffic, business, dangers, noise, stress. Then a tunnel. Then a different dimension: the sea, the nature, silence, birds. A beautiful villa. This was two millennia ago. This is today.

 

Grotta di Seiano: in the tunnel
Grotta di Seiano: in the tunnel
"Grotta di Seiano": entrance from the street
“Grotta di Seiano”: entrance from the street

A few days ago we visited the archaeological site of “Pausilypon”, a Greek term that translates as “pause from struggles” and that gave the name to Posillipo Cape. It is amazing how the feeling that originated the name in the 1st century is still what you feel today. Driving a winding road that goes down to Bagnoli, in the western end of the city, a cave opens on your left. It is the “Grotta di Seiano” (Seiano cave), the start of a 900 meters tunnel dug by Romans to shorten the path from the city to the commercial harbor of Pozzuoli, and then used as gate to this villa. One of the many “engineering miracles” of that time. At the other end of the Tunnel, the city is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the tunnel, on the other side
Outside the tunnel, on the other side
Garden planted with typical home plants for Roman villas
Garden planted with typical home plants for Roman villas

A short walk among plants and smells of Mediterranean vegetation, and you find yourself in a clearing enclosed by the remnants of a 19th century palace and two Roman theaters, on a cliff about 100 meters above crystal clear sea and the view of the Phlegraean islands. I will leave the description and history of the place to the guides; I will just try to give a better feeling of the place with a few pictures.

XIX century palace and grand theater remnants
Remnants of grand theater and 19th century palace
A view from the small Odeon theater
A view from the small Odeon theater

This villa was probably the first instance of a villa designed to melt in the landscape, adapting to the place rather than changing it. The theaters area was in the topmost section of the villa, while the rest ran down the slope to the sea level. The Gaiola Island area and beach, that we mentioned in a previous post, were part of the same property. Unfortunately many areas were destroyed and reused over the centuries, so they are lost.

 

View from the "Theater area": Pozzuoli Gulf and Phlegraean islands
View from the “Theater area”: Pozzuoli Gulf and Phlegraean islands
Crystal clear water below the Pausilypon villa
Crystal clear water below the Pausilypon villa

As we went through the Seiano tunnel listening to our guide we saw a couple of people passing by and quickly greeting the guide, apparently carrying some grocery bags. How weird… how can that be? Napoli is a contraddictory place; we mentioned that, as well as The Guardian. Over the last century or so, when this place was neglected, some people managed to somehow lawfully build their own residences in this area. Whatelse can I add? It is not always easy to belong to this place, to be proud of it and to fullfil the citizenship duty all at the sametime.

 

 

Monica with our clever and passionate guide Chiara
Monica with our clever and passionate guide Chiara
Banner of no-profit association that runs the place
Banner of no-profit association that runs the place

The guided visits held by professional guides are managed by a no-profit organization, C.S.I. Gaiola, created by a few young people and their love for the place. It is thanks to this organization that we can visit this place. Even though there is no mention on their site, it is possible to have tours in other languages if you ask in advance. They offer also other tours to explore the submarine remnants: clear-bottom boat, snorkeling, immersion, canoeing. All exciting stuff that we still have on our to-do list.

 

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