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The Bay of Naples

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Naples spreads right around its bay in an almost unbroken ribbon of docks, housing and development whose appeal is hard to discern, and only really becomes apparent the further away from the city you get. It’s one of the most geologically unstable regions in the world, a fact that becomes obvious west of the city, where volcanic craters, hot springs and fumaroles make up the area known as the Campi Flegrei, the Phlegrean Fields of classical times, a mysterious place in turn mythologized by Homer and Virgil as the entrance to Hades. These days most of the mystery is gone – like most of the bay, the presence of Naples dominates in the form of new, mostly illegal, construction – and much of the volcanic activity is extinct, or at least dormant. But parts of the area still retain some of the doomy associations that first drew the ancients here, and there are some substantial remains of their presence at Pozzuoli, Baia and Cumae. In the opposite direction, the coast east from Naples is even more built up, the Circumvesuviana train edging out through derelict industrial buildings and dense housing that squeezes ever closer to the track. Most people come here for the ancient sights of Herculaneum and Pompeii, or to scale Vesuvius – or they skip the lot for the resort town of Sorrento. All are easy day-trips, and Sorrento, though overdeveloped, is worth a little more time and makes a good springboard for seeing some of the Amalfi Coast.

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