Grotta della Dragonara

Useful Information

Location: Bacoli, Province of Napoli.
Open: only after appointment.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCistern ExplainRoom and Pillar Mining
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Address: Grotta della Dragonara, Parco archeologico dei Campi Flegrei, Via Dragonara, 48, 80070 Bacoli NA, Tel: +39-081-5235593, Tel: +39-081-5233797. E-mail:
Reservations: Cell: +39-349-4974183.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Grotta della Dragonara (Dragonfly Cave) is despite the name not a cave. It is an artificial underground structure of unknown type. Generally it is interpreted as a cistern, most likely for the nearby Villa di Lucullo. It was definitely not needed for the town itself or the fleet in the harbour, as the they were provided with drinking water by the much bigger cistern Piscina Mirabile. So some kind of private use is likely. During recent excavations a strange system was discovered which connects the passage with second level of cistern below.

Like most structures in Italy this is most likely of Roman origin. What ever its use was, after the fall of the Roman empire it was not used any more and probably forgotten. During the Middle Ages the site was known as Bagno del Finocchio (Fennel Bath), named after the huge fennel plants which grow around the entrance. Then there is the legend that it was later used as a burial place. As it is a legend we guess that human remains were never excavated.

The main part of the Grotta della Dragonara is a 60 m long and 6 m wide passage with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. It is today equipped with an elevated path for the visitors. Side passages are separated by huge pillars, a classical room and pillar design, probably this was simply the easiest way to build this structure. The walls are covered by a thick white plaster, one reason why: it was most likely a cistern. There are three skylights with staircases from the surface to the cistern, probably ways to fetch water. On the west side is a source of fresh water which was used by the locals until a few decades ago.