Saturday, November 6, 2010

Il Parco Archeologico di Cuma

Inside the Antro della Sibilla
Inside the Antro della Sibilla

Cuma (Cumae in English) was the first Greek colony on the mainland of Italy. It is believed to have been founded in the 8th century BC. The colony today is an archaeological site called Il Parco Acheologico di Cuma, that can be visited (location). The site is located in the frazione of the comune of Bacoli in the Gulf of Pozzuoli. We were staying just up the road at the elegant Villa Giulia and so this was our first outing of several days in the region.

There are two parts to the Cuma site. You take the Strada provincale Acropoli di Cuma to the very end (heading west) and there is a small parking area. This is the entrance to the main site (the acropolis area - Acropoli). Back along the road you came on, to the north are some more ruins (the lower city – Città Bassa) but when we were there those ruins were not accessible. A “docent” chased us out of everything interesting and we could only stay on the main road. He seemed peeved because he was having a nice day snoozing in his car and then here we come, the nosey tourists and then he had some work to do.

Cuma is famous as the seat of the Sibilla Cumana (Cumaean Sibyl), a prophetess who may have dispensed her wisdom from the cave called the Antro della Sibilla. The Sibilla Cumana appears in the legends of early Rome told in the Aeneid. The cave is one of the main attractions to visit Cuma and it is worth it. Get there early and you’ll have the cave (really a long underground tunnel) to yourself. There are some extracts from Virgil sprinkled around near the entrance adding to the classical touch – if you are good at reading Latin.

Overall, the Cuma site is fascinating but in serious disrepair. There is no one to give you any useful information. Park employees are unfriendly and seem more interested in sitting in their car or disciplining stray dogs. There is no brochure or audio guide, but there is some good signage (detailed and with English translations) if they aren’t badly weather worn or vandalized. A really pity, because the site could be so much more. The layers of history there have a lot of rich stories that aren’t really brought out fully. The Cuma site is a lesser stop on the archaeological tour and so has less people and money for maintenance. This can be a good thing if you want something off the beaten track. Some practical information, like phone numbers and hours, is here.

We spent a couple of hours exploring the Acropolis area and then decided to go to the Lower City area. That’s where we got hassled about getting too close to the ruins and were put off a little bit by that so we called it a day.

Approaching the Antro della Sibilla
Approaching the Antro della Sibilla

Lunar Calendar (Marked in Stone to the Left of the Sign)
Lunar Calendar

Detail of Suggested Itinerary


View Along the Crypta Romana
View Along the Crypta Romana

On Top of the Crypta Romana
On Top of the Crypta Romana

Sanctuario di Apollo
Sanctuario di Apollo

Tempio di Giove
Tempio di Giove

Terme del Foro
Terme del Foro

Ruins Underneath Fields - Città Bassa
Roman Road and Ruins Beneath a Field

Example Sign at Cumae
Example Sign at Cumae

3 comments:

  1. We have just had a family holiday in this region and found the information you gave very useful for our visit to Cumae. We were also amazed to have the same experience as yourself. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Acropolis of the Cumae Archaeological site and continued on down to the lower city. A stray, friendly dog accompanied us to the bath complex,as there wasn't a "human" attendant in sight. After exploring the baths, which were very interesting, we continued to the lower areas. Suddenly we became aware that we were being shouted at by one of the wardens, who then came to roust us out of the ruins. Virtually the entire lower area was closed off to the public. Not a very pleasant start to our holiday. The feelings of frustration were only to increase as time went on, when we found out that restrictions to viewing extended substancially to other key sites. For instance, there were only about five houses open in Pompeii and the rural villa at Boscoreale had been closed for approximately a year, because of seismic activity, which has rendered the structure unsafe. On the whole communication is something that has passed the Italian authorities by, as is the use of the internet to give information about such key archaeological sites, some of which rank as World Heritage sites. We will certainly think twice about visiting Italy again, as it is not worth the risk of driving on the roads, running the gauntlet of unhelpful and discourteous employees to visit archaeological sites that have large areas closed off to the public.

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  2. Sorry to hear about your experience. We did not make it to Pompeii or Boscoreale this time, but equally disappointing to hear your accounts.

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  3. Yeah, sometimes the guides are not to friendly. But at least you had the chance to visit this wonderful place. Congrats!

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