Pozzuoli, a picturesque port city outside Naples, is now a place where conversations take place about the fear and uncertainty following seismic activity around a super volcano in the area, known as Campi Flegrei or Flegrean Fields.
The area is named after the ancient Greek word for “burning” and is aptly named as sulfurous smoke often billows from the ground, creating a surreal atmosphere that attracts tourists.
The inhabitants of Pozzuoli have become accustomed to the smells, the smoke and sometimes even the trembling of the earth. In September alone, more than a thousand small earthquakes occurred.
However, it was a magnitude 4.2 earthquake on September 27, the most powerful in more than 40 years, that sparked concerns about a potential “seismic crisis”. The term has not been used since the early 1980s.
Although the major earthquake did not cause significant structural damage, it has put residents at risk, along with nearly 500 smaller earthquakes in October. Annamaria Scardi, a mother of two teenagers, also expressed concern about smaller tremors. The fear of imminent evacuation increases stress. She also wonders, like others, where they will go if such an order is issued.
Experts have stressed that there is no immediate danger of a volcanic eruption, but they are concerned about the rise and fall of the ground, which could destabilize buildings. Land slippage, known as bradyseism, is associated with the filling and emptying of magma chambers deep beneath the Earth’s surface.
During a similar crisis four decades earlier, the situation persisted for several years, leading to the temporary evacuation of 40,000 people from Pozzuoli, the hometown of actress Sophia Loren.
Today, families struggle with divided opinions. For example, Vincenzo Russo wants to stay, while his wife and children look for a home in a safer area. The constant fear and frequent aftershocks have taken a toll on residents, creating a sense of unease.
However, not everyone suffers from fear. Some people, like Angelo Prizzini and his friends, continue their daily activities. Prizzini, 78, is prepared to defy the evacuation order, while Luigi Ilardi, 66, takes a more indifferent approach, having become accustomed to seismic activity in the region.
For now, the people of Pozzuoli live in uncertainty, where every shock reminds them of the potential dangers lurking beneath the earth’s surface.