Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

 © ErN 156, entry Nov 2011, updated Sept 2022        

ake Fusaro, Hell-Hounds and Hunting Lodges

                                                      Cerberus (Heraklion  Museum, Crete)    
This is Lake Fusaro just north of the Gulf of Naples, between Monte di Procida and Cuma. The lake is 1 km2 in size. (N is at the top.) From above, it looks like a flat tire with the flat side almost flush against the coast but separated from the Tyrrhenian Sea by a sandy swath of thick growth of Mediterranean scrub. In Roman times the lake was part of the network that included lakes Lucrino and Averno plus Miseno harbor and connecting man-made channels that formed Portus Iulius, the home port for the western Roman Imperial Fleet. Earlier, the Greeks had settled all over the area. They saw the burnt-out craters of the Flegrean Fields (Campi Flegrei, still bubbling in places), smelled the air thick with sulfur, and thought, This sure as Hell looks like Paradise! and placed much of their mythology here: the entrance to Hell was at Lake Averno with the Cimmerian undergound dwellers close nearby. And Lake Fusaro? Here is where "Huge Cerberus sets these regions echoing with his triple-throated howling, crouching monstrously in a cave..." (in A.S. Kline's recent brilliant translation of the The Aeneid). (Cerberus was a watch-dog, as you may recall, but the job of this slobbering, three-headed, snake-maned Hell Hound in Greek and Roman mythology was to keep you from getting out of hell, not to keep you from getting in. If you, for some strange reason, actually wanted in, he was all cuddly widdle poochie-woochie.)

The popular attraction at Lake Fusaro is the Real Casina Vanvitelliana [Royal Vanvitellian Lodge] in the SE quadrant of the first image, above. [ee 2 images here, l&r, and 1 below] It was built by architects Luigi Vanvitelli and his son Carlo in 1782 at the behest of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. This charming lodge was built on grounds that were already in use for royal hunting and fishing. The lodge is in rococo style, and the decorations were the work of the noted landscape painter, Jakob Philip Hackert. The building is on an island joined to the shore by an arched wooden bridge. Much of what you see today is the result of intense, recent restoration. On the ground floor, the central circular hall displays a green marble Baroque mantelpiece. Its twin —once on the opposite side of the hall— was removed during World War II. The original antique floor with floral design is also gone, and nothing remains of the frescoed vault adorned with themes of the hunt, of fishing and of nature. The walls display four large paintings by Hackert (The Four Seasons), showing the panorama seen through the windows. The lines of the horizon in the paintings are such that they are extensions of the real horizon seen through the windows. These works disappeared during the revolution of 1799, but reproductions made from drafts were put in their place in 2001. This building was used as the residence of important guests, such as Francis II of Habsburg-Lorraine, who stayed here in May 1819. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was here, as was Gioachino Rossini.
[paragraph, below, added Sept. 2022]
The Casina was a refined 18th-century building with a well-
articulated plan: three octagonal bodies that intersect one on top of the other a sort of pagoda with large windows arranged on two levels. Despite some claims, the Casina does not look like the hunting lodge designed a few years earlier in Stupigno near Torino in Piedmont, designed by Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736) (they are both royal hunting lodges, yes, but Juvara's building is gigantic, and there is no overt similarity). Juvara was a late-Baroque architect and has some historical links with Naples. He was born in Sicily and worked in Italy, Spain, and Portugal. There are some early drawings by Juvara (dated 1706) of the San Bartolomeo Theater in Naples (the city's first opera house). Whether he completed the set designs for the theater is not known.
                                                Your Cranogg or Mine?
 I do see some resemblance to the image shown on the right! That's a cranogg, a partially or entirely artificial island, usually built in lakes and estuarine waters of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Crannogs had huts on them and were dwellings for 5000 years, from the European Neolithic Period to as late as the 17th/early 18th century. Radiocarbon dating from key sites indicates they date to the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age. The earliest-known crannog is the artificial Neolithic islet of Eilean Dòmhnuill, Loch Olabhat on North Uist in Scotland
(shown, photo: Richard Law) Radiocarbon dates range from 3650 to 2500 BC. I guess a good idea whose time has come never really gets old.

ake Fusaro is connected to the sea by three man-made channels built at various times. Two relatively recent outlets are the north outlet from the Bourbon period (1859) and the central channel from 1940. The oldest one (the Foce Vecchia —Old Outlet) is controversial and perhaps the one of mythology. It is on the south and consists of a gallery dug into the tuff rock of the Torregaveta promontory and a long channel behind that running back into the lake. Some place the construction at the time of the Romans, while others say the second half of the 1600s.

The Fusaro outlet today   

That is quite
a time spread, but both versions may be true. The Old Outlet is a 125-meter gallery dug into the tuff rock; it is 4.30 meters wide and about 6-8 meters high, lying 2.5 meters beneath the surface. Archaeologists tell us that it served as a kind of tunnel-road joining the landing and the inland property belonging to Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus. Ruins are still visible at the promontory and have been dated to the first century BC or, at the latest, to the age of Augustus. Thus, it is Roman. Yet, a contrary opinion comes from Tuscan architect Antonio Niccolini (1772-1850), whose search in archives led him to conclude that at least much of the tunnel was, in fact, built in the late 1600s when the fathers of the Church of the Annunziata in Naples had concession of the property and decided to improve it by opening an outlet to the sea to let fish into the lake. That work was completed in 1696. It is probably a matter of one age building over another one, something quite common here.

Indeed, even before the Greeks, we presume that the lake was used by the indigenous Opici-Oscan population. They were situated on the Cuma promontory where they cultivated mussels; this could explain the rendering of that mollusk on the reverse of Cumaean coins. Even today, part of the lake in given over to the cultivation of the well-known Fusaro mussels. The name "Fusaro," itself, indicates another use of the lake: from infusarium; this was where they soaked hemp and flax for commercial purposes in the Middle Ages. The ancient Greek name, by the way, was Acherusia Palus —the Acheron Swamp. The Acheron was the river of pain that you crossed on your way to Hell.

This site was one of the 22 Royal Bourbon properties in the Kingdom of Naples. They range from the large Royal palaces to smaller residences and hunting lodges. This is the complete list with links to entries:
Palace Naples
Palace Capodimonte
Palace Portici

Palace Caserta
villa d'Elboeuf 
Villa Favorita
Palazzo d'Avalos
Lake Agnano
San Leucio
Palace Quisisana
Demanio di Calvi

There are three ways to get past the dog: (1) lull it to sleep with a lyre, the way Orpheus did; kick the snot out of it, as Hercules did; or drug it with doped honey-cake, as did Aeneas and Psyche. For that, you will need 1 cup each of honey, cake, and drugs; snot, 3 eggs —one for each head— and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Season to taste with salt, pepper, deadly nightshade, and wolfbane. Preheat oven to 175° C. Put in the dog. I have no idea. Just keep asking it if it's done.

photo credits:
—Cerberus-Tom Oates; Bourbon lodge, jm; mosaic, jm; Fusaro Outlet-Napoli Underground.

note: Sept 2022. UNESCO has a lengthy procedure for adding sites to their World Heritage List. Italy, in general, is
well-represented. Naples and the Campania region are, as well. Even Vanvitelli is (his Caserta palace is right next-door.
They should give him this one, too.

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