After lying dormant for 4,000 years one of Europe’s most powerful volcanoes, Campi Flegrei near Naples in Italy, is showing signs of life.

Instinct would tell you to stay away, but an international team of scientists are doing exactly the opposite. They are preparing to drill a 2.5-mile hole into the heart of the volcano to investigate beneath the surface.

Their aim is to pinpoint the source of mounting pressure that has caused the ground at the port of nearby Pozzuoli to rise dramatically over the past 40 years. Identifying the cause would help scientists to predict how close the volcano is to blowing.

"The volcano is breathing and there is a very serious seismic risk," said Dr Ulrich Harms, a vulcanologist at the German Centre for Geoscience in Potsdam.

A powerful eruption would cause widespread devastation and could cover thousands of square kilometres in volcanic ash, he said.

Locals may be alarmed by the venture, but leaders of the $12 million project, which is funded by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, claim there is no real risk of setting off an eruption.

“We’re not going to drill into the magma chamber or erupt the volcano,” said Dr Chris Kilburn, of University College London, one of the lead scientists. “We’re going to be standing on the damned thing so unless we want to commit some sort of collective euthanasia that wouldn’t be a good idea.”

Click here to read the full story at the Times of London.