Monday 3 August 2009

Baia Underwater Archaeology Park

As summer is well and truly here, what could be better than sun, sea and archaeology? For those visiting the Naples area, the underwater archaeology at Baia is a must.

The archaeology at Baia includes a variety of Roman structures that are now underwater due to bradyseism phenomena (i.e. the ground has sunk due to seismic activity). There are seven principle dive sites at Baia, with more around the Bay of Naples and the islands.

Secca delle Fumose - a series of enormous brick piers, presumably formed part of the protection for the port.
Portus Julius - the port commissioned by Agrippa to be the arsenal for the fleet at Misenum.
Piso Villa - originally owned by the Piso family, this luxury villa later became imperial property.
Protiro Villa - not just the villa, but also a road with taberna along it.
Villa below the Aragonese castle - another luxury villa complex, some of which is underwater
Maritime villa - another luxury villa
Misenum lighthouse - 18 m tall brick columns that now lie on the seabed, the visit also includes a nativity scene installed by a local artist.
Bath complex - near to the Claudian nymphaeum, many of the statues in Baia museum come from this location. Not currently open to visits, but work is underway to provide guided (underwater) tours including lighting system for night visits.

The area is also a marine protected area, so despite the pollution in the Bay of Naples, you are also guaranteed to see some wildlife.

Visits to underwater Baia can be done in three ways:

- scuba-diving: there are various scuba centres that offer guided tours to Baia. I've been with the Centro Sub Campi Flegrei, which is a 5-star PADI Instructor Development Centre, and can fully recommend their services. They provide all the equipment you need, and also have English-speaking staff. Other dive centres offer visits, but it is important to make sure they are members of the Consorzio Campano Assodiving Flegreum, an association authorised by the Soprintendenza di Napoli to organize visits (and headed by the Centro Sub Campi Flegrei).

- snorkling: many of the sites are in shallow water and can be visited without needing to scuba. For those who enjoy swimming, but don't necessarily want to go deeper this is the perfect way to combine sea and archaeology. Again visits can be organised through the Centro Sub Campi Flegrei.

- glass-bottomed boat: for those who don't want to get wet, you can still visit Baia and see through the transparent bottom of Cymba. Individuals can go on tours on weekends, but you need to book - whereas a group can phone up and book a tour at a convenient time.

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