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!