The immortal sepulcher
An obligatory cult destination for generations and generations of poets and intellectuals, the Park and the Tomb of Virgil extend along what the Greeks called "Pausilypon", a place where pains and anxieties dissolve, eased by peace and quiet stimulated by the spectacular panorama of the Gulf of Naples.
Even today, after thousands of years, this immortal area, rich in myths, stories and nature, continues to inspire the imagination, curiosity and creativity of visitors from all over the world.
History of the site
Extending along the eastern slopes of the Posillipo promontory, near the Mergellina railway station and behind the church of Santa Maria di Piedigrotta, the park hosts a considerable number of extremely significant monuments for Neapolitan history, including the tombs of poets Publio Virgilio Marone (Andes, 15 October 70 BC - Brindisi, 21 September 19 BC) and Giacomo Leopardi (Recanati, 29 June 1798 - Naples, 14 June 1837).
Since ancient times, the area became sacred for Virgil's admirers and was for a long time a privileged destination for Italian and foreign poets, intellectuals, chroniclers and travellers, such as Stazio, Pliny the Younger, Silio Italico, Petrarca, Boccaccio and Cino da Pistoia. Nevertheless, controversies and doubts continue to exist regarding the authenticity of the tombs of Virgil and Leopardi due to, at times, conflicting information.
The park's inauguration took place in 1930, after a substantial consolidation intervention that gave the area the appearance that is still observable today, full of particularly interesting landscape views.
Following the repaving and reconstruction of the road surface carried out in several phases by Alfonso of Aragon in 1455, by Don Pedro of Toledo in 1548, by Charles of Bourbon in 1748 and by the Municipality of Naples in 1893, the cave has lost a good part of its ancient physiognomy.
On the sides of the entrance, however, two frescoed niches are still visible: the one on the left with a depiction of the Madonna and Child dating back to the fourteenth century, while the one on the right, depicting the face of the Almighty, is of uncertain dating.
At the entrance to the park, taking the boulevard that climbs with several ramps along the hill slopes, there is instead an imposing aedicule placed there in 1668 by the viceroy Peter of Aragon, containing two inscriptions which also recall the presence of the Virgilian tomb.
Not far away, in a large niche on the wall, there is a bust of Virgil on a column, a tribute in 1931 by the students of the Ohio Academy.
At the end of the second ramp, on a clearing on the right, the area dedicated to the tomb extends and, climbing further on, you reach the area in front of the eastern entrance of the Neapolitan Crypt. It is one of the oldest galleries in the world, excavated in the Augustan age to facilitate connections between Naples and the Campi Flegrei.
A white marble bas-relief depicting the god Mithras, dated between the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth century AD, was found during the Aragonese restoration or during the works carried out at the time of the Spanish viceroyalty. The relief, which is now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, has led scholars to hypothesise that the Crypt was once a place of Mithraic worship. Influenced by mysterious cults, popular superstition has always described the cave as an enigmatic and magical place, to the point that just crossing it unscathed was considered a true miracle.
The funerary mausoleum of Virgil, built in opus reticulatum at the beginning of the imperial age, is of the columbarium type, with a cylindrical drum on a quadrangular base, in which the square-shaped funerary cell with a barrel vault is obtained.
Also known as the “Grotta vecchia di Pozzuoli”, this gallery was built in the Augustan age by the freedman Lucius Cocceius Aucto, architect of Agrippa and admiral of Octavian, according to Strabo (V, 4, 6). Mentioned in the Tabula Peutingeriana (a map with road itineraries from the late imperial era) and remembered not only by Strabone but also by Donato, Seneca, Petronio and Eusebio, the tunnel is excavated entirely in the tuff and its length is 705 metres long, with an original width of 4.50 metres and roughly 5.00 metres high.