Virgil's ashes were sent back to Naples and today a park between the districts of Mergellina and Fuorigrotta claims to be the place of Virgil's Tomb. Visitors can park their car up on the sidewalk and then stroll through unmanned gates. A concrete path leads to an alcove that has a bust of Virgil. Along the path, gardeners have planted vegetation that Virgil wrote about in his works, including strawberries, myrtle, and ivy.
The path winds up to the trapezoidal Grotto Vecchia, also called the Crypta Napoletana. It's a mammoth tunnel cut into the tuff-stone cliff and measures about 700 meters long by 16 meters wide. Created during the first century B.C., a locked fence bars visitors from entering. Cut into the tuf0-stone ceiling, a bright colored fresco of the Madonna is preserved from paleo-Christian times when the grotto was turned into a church.
The early Renaissance humanist, Petrarch, wrote that a chapel was built here in an attempt to curb pilgrims during the early Middle Ages from gathering for all-night parties and orgies in honor of the goddess Mithras. Interestingly, the Catholic Church later adopted these gatherings as part of its own tradition, creating a riotous celebration at this location for the Madonna of Piedigrotta.
To the right of the Grotto Vecchia, steps lead to a Roman aqueduct that once carried water along a 100 kilometer route. Then more steps lead to a sanctuary. Inside, a tripod burner originally dedicated to Apollo sits in a hollow space. This may have been the place where Virgil's ashes once rested. Today, of course, his remains are lost to time. From the shrine, a stunning view of downtown Naples makes the park and grotto feel like a great place to hold a riotous gathering.