‘Astroni’ has been well known since the time of ancient Rome, when it was used for therapeutic baths. In those times Astroni was rich in thermal and water springs, which disappeared after a volcanic eruption created a new mountain (Monte Nuovo) in 1538. In that period Alfonso I of Aragon converted ‘Astroni’ into a Royal Hunting Preserve by surrounding it with a high embankment, which was turned into a tuff wall three centuries later during the reign of King Carlo I of Bourbon. King Carlo held luxurious parties and remarkable hunts for himself and his guests. The wall remains today, but due to poor maintenance in the past, is in urgent need of restoration. After the reunification of Italy ‘Astroni’ suffered progressive degrading, starting with the House of Savoy. Later, from 1919 until 1980, under the administration of “Opera Nazionale Combattenti” uncontrolled and unregulated utilization of it as tourist attraction was allowed, which in turn destroyed the natural environment. Once the Opera Nazionale Combattenti was closed down, ‘Astroni’ became a site of Regione Campania. Nowadays Astroni Reserve belongs to the Campania Region, located in the municipal district of Pozzuoli, not far from Napoli. It comprises one of the volcanic craters of Campi Flegrei. Situated 16 km from the center of Napoli, its boundaries are Agnano to the East, Monte Leucogeo to the South, Pianura to the North and Monte Barbaro to the West. The total area is 2,50 sq. km. with its highest point being 255 m (837 ft) above s.l. and its lowest being 9 m (30ft) above s.l. The crater floor has a few bumps due to secondary volcanic activity: Colle dell’Imperatrice (76 m – 249 ft), Colle della Rotondella (59 m – 194 ft), Paglieroni (17 m – 56 ft). At the very bottom of the crater three small lakes can be found: Lago Grande, Cofaniello Piccolo, Cofaniello Grande. Some gentle crests ruflle the crater’s slopes; starting from the entrance these crests are named Torre Centrale, Torre Nocera and Torre Lupara.
FAUNA AND FLORA
The Astroni crater is home to a great variety of habitats. Vegetation typical of lake areas, reeds, sedges, bulrush and white willow, grows near the lake. The crater floor and the inside slopes show the peculiar and interesting phenomenon of inversion of vegetation (or inverted plant life), compared to the normal succession of plants related to the altitude. Over time the humidity on the crater floor has allowed the natural colonisation of submontane species such as chestnut, english oak, common elm, european hornbeam, hop hornbeam, field maple plus some quickgrowing species recently introduced by the man, like canadian poplar, false acacia, tree-of-heaven and american red oak. The slopes and the crater lip are carpeted with typical evergreen mediterrenean vegetation, the so called Mediterrenean Maquis (strawberry tree, heather, mastic, myrtle, laurel, mock privet, european privet, salvia cistus and Montpelier cistus). The animal species in Astroni have been changing along the centuries because of frequent introductions of different species for hunting purposes since Alfonso I of Aragon’s reign up to the 1950s. In the 1960s not endemic species (guanaco deer, antelopes, gazelles, deer) were introduced but were quickly and easily eliminated by poachers. The diversity of the crater morphology creates a rich variety in habitats, the result being several different animal species, including amphibian (green frog, agile frog, european green toad), reptiles (water and grass snake), small mammals (fox, fat dormouse, hazel dormouse, porcupine, mice, mole, least weasel), wood birds (black cap, blackbird, wren, jay, tits, robin, wood pigeon, kestrel, buzzard, sparrowhawk, etc.) and water fowls (mallard, moorhen, coot, little bittern, little grebe, ferruginous duck, etc. The crater is the sole secure nesting area in Campi Flegrei for seven birds: jay, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, ferruginous duck, and peregrine. That is why the WWF chose the great spotted woodpecker as Reserve symbol.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTRE
The Ministry of Environment established the Centre of Environmental Education ‘Cratere degli Astroni’. While the Department of Education (Assessorato alla Cultura) of Regione Campania is in charge of ‘Astroni’, it has turned over the administration of the reserve on to the WWF Campania Regional Section. Information and education are the main activities of the Centre, which also sees to the updating of the most important environmental matters and the protection of the environment especially related to the district of Campi Flegrei, which Astroni is part of.
In 1987, during a workshop held in Napoli, the Minister of Environment proposed the founding of a State Nature Reserve at Astroni. The Campania Region promptly agreed and that same year, on July 14th of Environment officially declared the institution of the Reserve, on the basis of its noteworthy naturalistic importance.
Size: The 2,50 sq km reserve was established in 1987.
Administration: the WWF, in agreement with Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Campania Region is in charge of the administration of the reserve.
Environment: volcanic crater covered with woods: the bottom is 9 m above s.l. and has 3 ponds; vegetation is mixed, whereas on the inner small hills and on the surrounding crests mediterranean vegetation prevails.
Facilities: nature trails, Centre of Environmental Education, Visitor Centre.
The entrance to Astroni Reserve is through the ‘Torre Centrale’ (Central Tower) built in the sixteenth century, enlarged and readapted through the years until the early 1900s. The whole reserve is surrounded by a wall. Along the wall there are two structures which in the past were probably watch towers (Torre Lupara and Torre Nocera). On the crater floor, near the so called ‘hunt road’ there is “la Vaccheria”, a former hunting lodge.
Open year round, from Wednesday to Sunday: on Wednesday and Saturday from 9.30 to 13.00, the Reserve closes at 14.30. Summertime: on Sunday the Reserve is open from 9.30 to 14.00 and closes at 15.30. Standard time: from 9.30 to 17.00 and closes at 18,30.
On sunday there are guided tours for groups with a minimum of 10 persons. Tourists’ and students’ groups can book a guided tour on weekdays (reservation required, tel. 081/5883720 fax 081/5881255)
The Reserve is closed from Monday to Friday, Easter monday, August15th, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
By car: Napoli Ring Road (Tangenziale) get off at the Agnano Exit (n° 11). After the toll House turn right and drive 1,7 km ahead.
By bus: bus C14 from Circumflegrea Pianura railway station or bus stop in piazza Salvemini (near Linea 2 Metropolitana station of Bagnoli – Agnano T. and Cumana railway station of Bagnoli).