Bob sits at “the spot” where Paul probably disembarked to W. Europe

In a small suburb of Naples on the Bay of Napoli, we were surprised to find the spot where the Apostle Paul first placed his foot on the Western European sub-continent. Acts 28:13-14 describes Paul after his ship-wreck and leaving Malta:

13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.”

It turns out that Puteoli of the NT is Puzzuoli of modern Italy. Charlie drove us through just a few neighborhoods from where he lives, and Gail and I stood on the spot that is traditionally considered to be Paul’s landing spot. It is now, of course, marked by its own church. It is interesting to note that there were already Christians in Puteoli before Paul’s arrival there who welcomed him and offered him hospitality on his was to Rome.

The church in Puzzuoli that marks the spot where Paul landed in W. Europe

In Paul’s day, Puteoli was the arrival point of all vessels bound for Rome (170 miles distant). It was a thriving seaport, receiving ships with passengers and cargo from all over the known world. In Puteoli, we saw the ruins of the third largest Roman coliseum in the world, where many Christians were martyred during the later persecutions. The most famous martyr was the patron saint of Puzzuoli, San Procolo, who was beheaded in the fourth century in the town, but not in the coliseum itself.

The city is surrounded by interesting sites. The hills of the town are dotted with old stones that look like natural outcroppings now, covered as they are by plants and trees. But they are actually ruins from the Roman era, rising up out of antiquity to form the sidewall of a restaurant or private property. The Roman emperors had their summer villas across the bay, all underwater now as the land has shifted due to volcanic activity – Charlie said it is a good diving site today as you can dive among the ruins.

 The “lake of fire” described by Virgil and later by Dante, which was thought to be the gateway to Hades and the River Styxx, is an actual place on the way to Puzzuoli, in a caldera (old volcano crater) that, in those days, was filled with molten, steaming mud. But apparently Nero attempted to build a canal across this area and flooded the caldera with sea water. So today the gate to Hades is a quiet little lake surrounded by resort villas. We could still see active steam vents throughout the area that indicate that the old volcano is still down there somewhere, perhaps guarding the gate and the entrance to that legendary river.

In the downtown area, there are ruins of what was originally thought to be a temple, but was later discovered to be a meat market. Apparently, when the Romans brought in beasts for the “summer games” at the coliseum, a certain percentage either died in transport or shortly after their arrival. The old ruin was actually the market where they sold the meat from those exotic beasts.

Puzzuoli is a now charming little Italian seaside village.