Different ancient literary traditions describe the Pozzuoli Solfatara – in the Phlegraean Fields volcanic area, near Naples – as the door to Hell.
Greek geographer Strabo, who lived between 60 BC and the 2nd century AD, wrote it was home to Volcano – god of destructive fire.
British medieval author Gervase of Tilbury believed the bronze doors of the underworld had sunk, destroyed, to the bottom of the lake near this still-active old crater.
Some say even Virgil was inspired by the Phlegraean Fields, in particular for the setting of the scene in the “Aeneid”, Book VI, in which the Trojan hero and the Cumaean Sibyl descend into Hades. In those verses, the ancient Mantua poet describes an indubitably infernal place:
such a breath flowed from those black jaws, / and was carried to the over-arching.
Today we know of course that the Pozzuoli Solfatara is not the entrance to Hell, but a wonderful, elliptical two-kilometer-around crater – where puffs of sulfur dioxide, wells of mineral waters, mud pits, and caves of trachyte put on a daily show of natural wonders.