Our second day at the Villa was definitely more pleasant. After a nice breakfast with plenty of orange juice, we headed a very short way to Cumae, originally an early Greek settlement. The big highlight is going into the Sibyl’s grotto (which is really just one option, if the Sibyl ever did exist and live in Cumae—her last reported appearance in the literature is when she sells the Sibylline prophecies to the Tarquins). Apparently, the grotto might also have been a military installation to match the tunnels Agrippa built from Lake Avernus for ships and troops (the Portus Julius). We also got to see the Roman forum and Greek acropolis, as well as the Temple of Apollo (the one reportedly, by Vergil, built by Daedalus). We headed back to the Villa for a lunch of caprese salad and watermelon.
Next up was a visit to Lake Avernus and the supposed entrance to the underworld. An amazing old tour guide who seems to simply sit outside the cave waiting for visitors showed us another possibility for the Sibyl’s grotto, inside of which was a path down to the so-called River Styx, which I got to touch! Very cool! After an refreshing Magnum Infinity bar, we went to Puteoli to see the remains of the macellum (& possible Temple of Serapis, but probably not—there was a statue of Serapis found, but since the macellum is Flavian and they had a special connection to Serapis & Isis, it was probably just part of the same complex), the floor of which is underwater because of seismic activity. Our final stop of the day was the Phlegraean Fields (also called the Forum of Vulcan), a giant pit of desert/sulfur fields that is the most indescribably foul smelling place I’ve ever been!
Back at the Villa, I caught up on some emails and had a lovely dinner of spicy pasta, zucchini & fried chicken, and tiramisu. We are all very excited about our trip to Capri that starts tomorrow afternoon (we get to stay at a really nice hotel for two nights)!