Solemn and dumb scenery is the cliff of Rione Terra, a joint of grey cubes and rectangles, undone rocks of tuff, definite pinnacles and precise domes with splendid tiles of ceramics.
This was the place were the first groups of people coming from Samos lived; it was the acropolis of Dicearchia; it was the first seat of the legionaries of Rome and of the settlers of Puteoli; here it stood out the aedicule which had been dedicated to Poseidon and then to Eubone; here raised the Capitolium of Puteoli, the temple of Augustus and the Dome.
The hill of Rione Terra, after the lifting happened during the last years, raises at about 38 metres above the sea-level. In the history of Pozzuoli it occupies the most important place, because it received the first remote installations and represented not only the fundamental nucleus of the colony of Samos in Dicearchia, but also of the Roman settlement of Puteoli.
It was called Rione Terra, like in Procida the zone Terra during the early Middle Ages, by the Byzantines. Besides heart of the city, for centuries it was also its fortress.
The same name (Dicearchia) was a provocation for the tyrant of Samos: the just government, or government of the just men, represented a moment of aggregation of the opponents, a government in exile (of the just men) to be proposed to the ones who were fighting as rebels at home or as refugees abroad. It is rather dark the continuation of this vicissitude, also because probably the most representative exponents of this colony returned home after the regime changed.
When Cumae in 420-421 B.C. fell into the power of the Samnites of Capua and of Nola, also Dicearchia was overwhelmed by the events and disappeared in the vortex of obliviousness.
Puteoli, cerula sul lunato azzurro (Puteoli, cerulean in the blue lunar landscape) sings Gabriele DAnnunzio in the ode Dalla Certosa di San Martino and this way probably appeared the hill of Rione Terra to the admiring eyes of the soldiers of the Prima Legio, led by the consul Quinto Fabio, when in 215 B.C. they entered with a clever and sudden movement the stronghold, which dominates the port. The militiamen were satisfied because they defeated Hannibal with great strategic imagination, as along the axis Puteoli/Cuma it would be played the decisive battle between Romans and Carthaginians, which had as a stake the city of Rome.
The news of the occupation of the stronghold of Dicearchia alarmed him, he understood that the Romans wanted wore him out along the Phlegraean defensive line. He reacted with equal intuition and fantasy to the movement of the Romans, but it was too late.
The six thousand men of the Roman garrison, exploiting the ideal natural position of the fortress which was provided with all the most modern war means, fought with heroic fury and broke off Hannibal's dreams and plans. For three days, the Carthaginian flung the best of his militias, put the catapults the nearest to the boundary walls of the besieged fortress, tried to manoeuvre with stairs from the side of the sea, pushing at night the ferocious Mauritanians to attempt the climbing. In vain. The Senate of Rome had been provident, when ordered Q. Fabio to conquer the stronghold of Dicearchia and the port.
Fallen Delos, Puteoli becomes the emporium maximum of the Mediterranean Sea. Trade exchanges, industrial activities, cross road of courses and famous personages which went to the capital.
Finis Puteolorum: it was the nightfall for the Barbarous. Alaric besieged Puteoli in 410 A.D.. Vandals, Goths Byzantines and Longobards passed through the prostrated Pozzuoli.
In 1131 Pozzuoli falls into the hands of the new Norman invaders, led by the king Roger II.
Martino de Leon y Cardenas: ... Bishop of Pozzuoli and Archbishop of Palermo. [ ] De Leon was sent to Pozzuoli [ ] on 28th June 1631. [ ] As soon as he became bishop, Martino wanted that the Dome was worthy of Pozzuoli, the city which had honoured the pagan Caesar Augustus. In fact, on the Acropolis of Dicearchia, where it raised the capitolium of the colony of Pozzuoli in 194 B.C., Lucio Calpurnio dedicated to the emperor Augustus the temple, made splendid by many Corinthian columns and architecturally directed by Cocceio Aucto.
Already from a document of 24th July 1026, in which it is mentioned a church of Saint Pietro, it results the existence of the dome of Pozzuoli intus castrum iuxta episcopium sancti Proculi. Here it is confirmed the antiquity of San Procolo as protector of Pozzuoli, besides the existence of the bishop's residence in Rione Terra.
The cathedral of Pozzuoli from up there was witness of happy and sad vicissitudes during the far years of the Middle Ages till the catastrophe of Monte Nuovo, which destroyed and ruined the structures of the old worship building.
1656. To this period it dates back the dramatic plague emergency, which killed swarms of people as they were gnats, not only in Naples and Pozzuoli. It is said that in Naples the dead were piled up like pyramids and that they died twenty thousand persons a day.
In Pozzuoli the tragedy of the plague was not less cruel than in the other countries. Hundreds of dead were buried in common graves in Rione Terra and recent excavations brought back to light bunches of human bones of those poor persons.
The passage of the plague for the unlucky Rione Terra left as a sign the toponym to a little street, in proximity to the open space before the old municipality, where there was also the seat of the Praetorship till 1970. This little street, which takes to the cliff of saint Celso near Portanuova, was called Pesterola, both because the popular opinion located in that cuniculus the first centre of the plague, and because the whole internal zone was cut down by the lethal disease.
The street opens with an arch and its ancient name via Posterula (small door from the Longobard word Pusterla, linguistic residue of the Medieval castra) which was mangled to pesterola with a sinister consonance. It was instituted the pass for the monattos (nurses and grave digger) and was founded an orphanage for the girls, daughters of the men dead of plague (Ritiro di Santa Maria della Consolazione).
In 1964 the flames devoured the famous Dome of Rione Terra, which in 1953 astonished an art connoisseur, the Tuscan senator Amintore Fanfani, in visit to Pozzuoli.
Then in 1968 inexorable and invisible it shakes, in the labyrinths of the Phlegraean subsoil, the monster of the bradyseism.
1968-1972: first act. The ground rises of about one metre and seventy centimetres. Rione Terra is cleared.
1982-1984: second act. The bradyseism is in motion again. The ground rises of about one metre and sixty centimetres in less than two years. After the shock on 4th October 1983: the great hexode.
Gianni RACE "Pozzuoli: storia, tradizioni e immagini"
At present the zone of Rione Terra is closed.
There are many outstanding initiatives to render this area enjoyable by the public. As soon as they will become reality, we will communicate it on these pages.
from Naples (highways)
Enter the Tangenziale of Naples direction Pozzuoli. Exit n. 12 Pozzuoli - Via Campana. At the cross road with roundabout, turn right entering Via Campana direction Pozzuoli. Continue as far as the cross road of Piazza Capomazza. At the cross road with roundabout regulated by traffic lights, turn left entering via Domiziana direction Napoli. Arrived in proximity to the Amphitheatre Flavi turn right, at the cross road turn right again going down the street with bends. After few metres you arrive at the entrance of Rione Terra.
from Naples (downtown - main station of piazza Garibaldi)
Direction Porto - Piazza Municipio. Continue for Mergellina and Fuorigrotta. Here it is possible to enter the Tangenziale direction Pozzuoli, or to go on for via Domiziana as far as arriving in proximity to the Amphitheatre Flavi. At the cross road turn left, continue and at the cross road turn right going down the street with bends. After few metres you arrive at the entrance of Rione Terra.
from Rome to Naples - via Domiziana
Continue for Baia Domizia, Mondragone, Castel Volturno. Then cover the freeway SS. n° 7 Quater which takes on the Tangenziale of Naples (Exit Pozzuoli - Arco Felice), or cover via Domiziana (SS. n° 7 Quater). Follow indications for Napoli, Pozzuoli. Arrived at the cross road of piazza Capomazza with roundabout regulated by traffic lights go on straight along via Domiziana direction Napoli. Arrived in proximity to the Amphitheatre Flavi turn right, at the cross road turn right again going down the street with bends. After few metres you arrive at the entrance of Rione Terra.