It was the last day of the summer vacation, 2017, and two Italian boys wanted to end on a high. They asked their parents if the family could visit one of the country’s volcanic regions before returning to school. It wasn’t an unusual request, many kids are fascinated by the fiery phenomena. In addition, the brothers had been learning about this particular site in school. Their mom and dad agreed and treated their sons to a final day out. The foursome travelled from their home near Venice, to the volcanic Campi Flegrei to the west of Naples. But no-one in the family could have foreseen the tragic horror they would witness on their sightseeing trip.
Campi Flegrei means Phlegraen Fields in English, and it is a very dangerous place despite being a tourist attraction. It measures nine-and-a-half miles across and boasts 40 volcanoes, both dormant and active, and the whole area constitutes a super-volcano. In December 2016, volcanic activity there had increased to levels where expert observers worried that the whole thing might erupt. Then, in August 2017, built up energy caused an earthquake on the western border of Campi Flegrei. It measured four on the Richter scale and killed two women and injured several more inhabitants of the island of Ischia which was close to the epicenter.
One of Campi Flegrei’s volcanos is Solfatara, a word which is derived from “sulpha terra,” meaning land of sulfur in Latin. It was formed about 4,000 years ago, and because of its volatile nature the Romans believed it to be the home of Vulcan the fire god. Since those times and before, people flocked to Solfatara to bathe in its hot springs, believing the volcanic vapors to have beneficial properties. Despite the dangers, today’s tourists continue to visit.