FOUNDING THE PARK...

The underwater Archaeology Park of Baiae was instituted as a protected marine area in 2002 by the Ministry of the Environment in agreement with the Ministries of Cultural Heritage and Activities, of Infrastructure and Transport, of Agriculture and Forestry and in collaboration with the Region of Campania. Both this park and the underwater Archaeology Park of Gaiola in the bay of Naples, also instituted under the same law, constitute a marine environment with significant historical, archaeological, environmental and cultural value.

The area of the underwater Archaeological Park of Baiae comprises the coastline of Bacoli and Pozzuoli stretching between the port of Baia’s southern-most pier (Omlin jetty) and Lido Augustus pier in Pozzuoli, and is divided into three categories:
total (A) - the heart of the Marine Protection Area in which all activities (except authorised scientific research and services) are forbidden so as to prevent damage and/or destruction of the marine environment;
general (B) - an area where sustainable activities with minimal effect on the marine environment are permitted under given regulations; and
partial (C) - a buffer zone between the highly sensitive areas and the open ocean in which sustainability and low environmental impact prevails.

Management of the Park has presently been entrusted to the Archaeological Authority of Naples and Caserta. The principal objectives of the underwater Archaeological Park of Baiae are:

  • protection and environmental and archaeological enhancement, incorporating occupational opportunities;
  • dissemination of knowledge about marine biology and underwater archaeological heritage;
  • implementation of educational programmes to improve ecological, marine biological and archaeological awareness;
  • implementation of scientific research programmes to further increase knowledge of the area; and
  • promotion of a compatible socio-economic development based upon traditional local activities, local residents and the businesses presently operating within the area.

NYMPHAEUM...

The nymphaeum (dating from the first half of the first century AD) was originally discovered in 1959 when Professor Lamboglia, founder of the centre for underwater archaeology, initiated a study on board the ship Daino to determine the morphology of a complete architectonic discovery at the base of Epitaffio Point.



Ten years later two marble statues were discovered still standing in the apse of a rectangular building. They have been acknowledged as being Homeric personifications showing the scene of the intoxication of Polyphemus as viewed by Odysseus and his companions; Odysseus offering a wine goblet to the cyclops.



Of five further statues the most beautiful and least damaged is of Dionysus when he was young. Another has been identified as being Antonia Minor, the mother of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - indeed, it appeared to be a gallery of sorts within the imperial residence depicting the Claudian dynasty. This, combined with the architecture of the room and the presence of plumbing to control the flow of water allow the ruins to be identified as a luxurious nymphaeum.

There is also a permanent exhibition of the nymphaeum in the Pincer Tower of the Aragonese castle in Baia.

VILLA PROTIRO...

This monumental is representative of the urban structures in ancient Baiae: a road with several taverns and a private villa. The name Protiro translates as "colonnaded doorway" and comes from the villa's particular little entrance porch which was framed by two long stone benches.



The Villa has a series of rooms with a central atrium to provide them with light. Within these rooms there are some wonderful mosaics, particularly that to the northeastern which is a combination of black and white marble tiles laid in a most distinctive pattern.




To the south of the atrium a vast room opens up with an apse of which the semicircle remains span a width of 10.37 meters. This was probably unrelated to the initial plan but is richly decorated in large marble slabs resplendant of the late-imperial domus ostiensis.

PISONIAN VILLA...

The Pisonian Villa dates back to the first century BC. Archaeological surveys carried out in the late 1980's uncovered a length of lead water piping which was found to have the inscription of Lucius Piso.



Based on this in-situ find, the villa has been identified as belonging to the powerful and wealthy aristocratic family Piso which organized a conspiracy against Emperor Nero. The plot was discovered and the family dispossessed. The villa, thus, came into the hands of the Emperor.







Today guided dives follow a pre-established route around a spacious courtyard of ca. 95 x 65 m along which it is possible to admire arcades and passages. Along one side of this area are the thermal baths, on the other are several rooms which served as a lead through to the maritime area and the large fish breeding pools beyond.

PORTUS JULIUS...

Portus Julius was commissioned by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa during the civil war between Octavian and Sextus Pompey (37 BC). The magnificent port was intended for the impressive arsenal of the Classis Misenensis, the most important Roman fleet. It’s construction was entrusted to the architect Lucius Cocceius Auctus, whose ingenuity ensured the port’s connection to Lake Lucrine and Lake Avernus via a navigable canal and to Cumae by a 1 km (0.6 mile) long underground tunnel through which chariets could pass. Ultimately, the naming of the port itself was in honour of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus.

Once complete, Portus Julius offered a comprehensive array of administrative naval services: warehouses for the storage of food and supplies, cisterns for potable water, dry docks for hull maintenance and workshops for the repairing of sails. Other, more personal needs were equally provided for: recreational facilities, the Temple of Poseidon, and discreet brothels.

However, the military life of the port was short on account of silting. As early as 12 BC the imperial fleet was moved to the nearby natural pools of Miseno and the port was reverted to civilian purposes. It was from this location that galleys were dispatched on the orders of Naval commander Gaius Plinius Secundus to evacuate the horror-striken inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum during the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

With the passing of millennia, the original complex has been fated by bradyseism (caused by volume changes in an underlying magma chamber and/or hydrothermal activity). In the late fifth centuary Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator noted that the outer breakwater of the port had fallen into disrepair; in the following centuaries it disappeared completely, reuniting Lucrino with the sea. This lateral movement of the coast continued until 29 Septmber 1538 when an eruption occurred generating the so-called New Mountain, distroying the village Tripergola and reducing Lake Lucrino to little more than a pond.

Portus Julius again came to light via aerial photography taken during World War II. Pictures taken illustrate the topography of the extensive portal complex which covers an area of approximately 10 hectares. Buildings used as warehouses could be identified along with various column arrangements denoting courtyards of residential houses. Indeed, most of the mapping of the area has been compiled from studying such photographs.



The details pertaining to the port’s construction have, however, been obtained via underwater surveys and observations. The walls and pillars rise from a few inches to more than a meter above the sea-bed and their stonework bears witness to the various building methods used, particularly reticulated work. Pathways, floor mosaics, ceramic wares and even the indication of frescoes can still be found in-situ.



SMOKEY REEF...

Numerous massive square-based pillars can be found approximately 600 m from the shore at Lucrino. They were constructed in a combination of Roman masonry, particularly opus reticulatum, and, due to their location, are presumed to have provided protection to Portus Julius.

Their heights reach from the sea-bed at depths of up to 16m to several meters below sea-level. Thus, they provide considerable protection from prevailing currents whilst generating differing light parameters. This has resulted in their tops being covered with algae which gradually recedes with depth to reveal an environment typical of the Meditterranean. This spectacular combination provides a unique habitat for a wide variety of organisms which have adapted to shallower waters than those in which they would usually abide. Not solely on the pillars themselves but also between them where fallen stonework is to be found, numerous different species of fish and all manner of marine life have found refuge.

Returning to the location's name, emphasis must be given here to the geological aspect - active fumaroles are plentiful and attest the volcanic origin of this area. These fumaroles are columns of gaseous bubbles which escape from the sea bed (at temperatures higher than those ambient) depositing sulphur which covers the surrounding sea floor giving it a white fluffy appearnce.



CENTRO SUB CAMPI FLEGREI...

The diving centre CENTRO SUB CAMPI FLEGREI - literally, the Phlegraean Fields Diving Centre, as named after the geological locality in which it is located - was established in 1992. It is orientated towards recreational diving activities and, with the involvement of archaeological, environmental and marine specialists, works towards improving the knowledge and protection of the marine environment and the archaeological heritage. CENTRO SUB CAMPI FLEGREI offers the following services:

COURSES: Ranging from introduction dives through to instructor level training including areas of special interests and technical diving, courses from PADI, CMAS and other national organisations are available. The diving centre's classroom is equipped with didactic materials and multimedia facilities to meet all training requirements.



EQUIPMENT: The diving centre has two Coltri Sub compressors, gas blending facilities, 50 complete sets of diving equipment, changing rooms and showers, wet and dry storage areas and a workshop for any necessary repairs.

GUIDED TOURS: Diving is offered at sites within the sunken city of Baiae, in the Gulf of Naples and around the islands of Ischia, Procida, Nisida and Capri. Snorkelling is also possible within the Archaeology Park of Baiae. Transfer to these sites is provided by the centre's own boat (12m) or their rhibs (8m and 5m) directly from their beach front location.



TOURISM: Diving packages such as full days on board or complete weekends are available and can be adjusted to meet your wishes. Longer holidays and cruises are also regularly arranged both locally and overseas (in partnership with outher tourist agencies).

EVENTS: In association with local agencies, training organisations and clubs the diving centre organises events and informative demonstrations to encourage a more environmentally conscious culture, particularly with respect to gaining a deeper respect for the marine environment and promoting its protection.



Professional instructors and welcoming atmosphere ensure your diving experience will be both safe and fun.

CENTRO SUB CAMPI FLEGREI is:

  • a PADI 5* IDC Diving Centre (the Professional Association of Diving Instructors)
  • affiliated with ARCI FISA SUB (the Italian Federation for Underwater Sports)
  • acknowledged by HSA (the Handicapped Scuba Association)
  • an active member of ASSODIVING FLEGREUM (the consortium acknowledged and authorised by the Archaeological Authority of Naples and Caserta to manage diving activities within the Underwater Park of Baiae)
  • acknowledged by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and MUIR (the Ministry of Higher Education and Research)
  • affiliated with LEGAMBIENTE (the Italian environmental association)

Contact the diving centre to discover more about the possibilities available right on their doorstep...
tel. / fax (landline) : +39 081 853 1563
mobile : +39 334 564 1480 / +49 1578 49 853 94

DIVING INTO THE PAST...

Even 2000 years ago Campania was considered to be one of Italy's natural beauties. During the late republican period Baiae, due to its thermal springs, developed into a fashionable bathing and recreational location. Grand villas belonging to wealthy Roman citizens and emperors such as Gaius Julius Caesar coined the appearance of the spa town. Famous writers and ancient poets called the place a “resort of vice” (Seneca) and a “favourable place for love-making” (Ovid).

Remains of these ancient baths and imperial villas have been rediscovered in Baia. Together they form the Archaeology Park above sea level. Despite the traditional names of “the Temple of Diana”, “Venus” and “Mercury” which these buildings were given, they once were a part of the thermal complex.

In 1538 the mount “Monte Nuovo” came into existence as a direct result of bradyseism (the lifting and sinking of the ground level within a region of volcanic activity). This phenomenon also caused a change in sea level relative to the land such that parts of the ancient Baiae and Puteoli are now submerged. This area has been established as a national Marine Protection Area; the “Parco Archeologico Sommerso di Baia”.

It is here that the ultimate diving (or snorkelling) experience within the bay of Pozzuoli can be found, in amongst the archaeological ruins. Even for those of us who do not consider ourselves to be “underwater building spotters”, the possibility to be in touch with history by effortlesly floating through the remains of Roman Baiae is not to be missed; buildings, courtyards, pathways and mosaics are all still relatively intact despite having been submerged for years upon years.

And, to throw in a good measure of geology and biology, the seeping gases which make Solfatara as reputed as it is can also be seen underwater. The underwater experience is, however, much more personal as the fumaroles (or geysers) become not only a visual but also a physical encounter – not only can they be felt (particularly during a cooler winter dive, Smokey Reef is always highly requested since the temperature is always a few degrees above the ambient!) but they can also be caught (playing with the bubbles and collecting an air pocket in the cusp of your hand isn’t something you can do on every dive!).

The bottom line is (and this cannot be repeated often enough): the Archaeological Park of Baia offers an underwater experience that is most certainly worth a visit - it can be recommended again and again and again!