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Lake Avernus is a lake of volcanic origin that is located inside a crater that dates back to 4000 years ago. In ancient times, the sulphurous exhalations of its waters killed many unfortunate birds, so because of this characteristic the lake was called Avernus, from the Greek άορνος (aòrnos) that means “without birds”. The exhalations ended naturally and today, around the lake, a perfumed Mediterranean scrub grows which hosts many species of birds and has become a magical place full of naturalistic and archaeological treasures such as the remains of the Temple of Apollo, the Sibyl’s Cave and the Cave of Cocceius.
The flat route consists of a single cobblestone path followed by a portion of paved road, which runs along the lake and is accessible to anyone. It is therefore very suitable not only for a pleasant family walk, but also for activities such as running or mountain biking.
Along the way there are stations for birdwaching enthusiasts for the observation of anatids such as coots, grebes and mallards. These are anatids (or water birds) that nest among the reeds near the water, and they feed mainly on small fish and algae. However, due to the presence of various farmhouses and of the interest of the people, these animals have become almost omnivorous.
Among these three types of ducks, the coots are the smallest ones and they have a characteristic black plumage, while the beak is white.
It is very simple to recognise them because of a particular behaviour of the male specimens, who literally runs on the water.
Mallards, instead, are also called “green heads”. The head of the males, in fact, presents an iridescent green colour under which it is possible to distinguish a white collar. The females, however, have a very neutral colour, but they have the same shape as the males.
Finally, the grebes can be distinguished by their long neck and by a particular tuft that they have on the head.
The waters of Lake Avernus are inhabited also by fish such as bleaks, gambusias, freshwater blennies and perch that attract fishing enthusiasts but also ecologists who study their interactions with species such as goldfish and freshwater turtles that have been clandestinely released in the waters of the lake. These species, in fact, are considered infesting because they have no natural predators and are very voracious. Therefore, they destroy the natural balance of the ecosystem and take over the native species.
Here you can also visit the archaeological remains of Temple of Apollo (located on the eastern shores of Lake Avernus), the Sibyl’s Cave (on the southern cost) and the Cave of Cocceius (located on the northern side of the lake).
What it is possible to observe of the Temple of Apollo are the remains of the structure, which is actually a large thermal room.
The Sibyl’s Cave is a long, dark and silent tunnel that was believed to be home to the Sibyl, the priestess of Apollo. According to Virgil, the Sibyl would have suggested to Aeneas to cross the lake to meet his late father, Anchises.
Finally, the Cave of Cocceius was designed and built by Cocceius at the behest of Agrippa, who commissioned its construction for military purposes: the cave had to connect, in fact, Lake Avernus with the Lucrine Lake during the construction of the Portus Iulius.
In the background we have the Mediterranean scrub, which includes specimens of elms, holm oaks and oleanders that will accompany your walk with their scent.
Around the lake there are various farmhouses and vineyards where renowned DOP wines are produced such as the Piedirosso and the Falanghina of the Phlegraean Fields, as well as various fruit and vegetable products.
There are also picnic areas, areas entirely dedicated to children and a spot for our four-legged friends which is called Animal Park. Interesting theme nights are organised on the shores of the lake.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that Lake Avernus was an access to the Underworld (or Hades), the place where souls went after death and the kingdom of the god Pluto.