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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Franco Banfi

Mar03

The underwater archaeological park of Baia

By Franco Banfi, Friday March 03, 2017
My dive guide Edoardo is showing me one of the mosaics inside Villa a Protiro, Baia Archeological Park, Bay of Naples, Italy. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens inside a Seacam underwater housing with two Seaflash 150 strobes; the exposure was 1/200sec at f/14, ISO 320.

My dive guide Edoardo is showing me one of the mosaics inside Villa a Protiro, Baia Archeological Park, Bay of Naples, Italy. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens inside a Seacam underwater housing with two Seaflash 150 strobes; the exposure was 1/200sec at f/14, ISO 320. © Franco Banfi

Will you believe that it is possible to dive, side by side with a grouper or an octopus, among the extraordinary beauty of submerged Imperial Roman Palaces and Villas dated 2200 year ago?

The coast of Campi Flegrei is a unique example in the world, due to the collapses of the ground (negative bradyseism) followed by gradual uplifts (positive bradyseism). On this extraordinary volcanic soil, an exceptional heritage of historical significance was built during the Roman era. As a consequence of the movements of the ground, and luckily for us, the ancient remains are now below sea level. If the sea had not swallowed the coast, much of this heritage would have been lost.

In the second century B.C. Baia was chosen by rich Romans as a place for holidays, vices and pleasures, because of the beauty of the panorama, the local springs of natural warm water and sulphurous steams coming from the volcanic subsoil. Here the Roman nobility built villas, palaces, thermal buildings, facilities and a large harbour.

Today, the depths of Baia show to us a clear image of the building density in this stretch of coast. Just a few metres below the sea level, we can now swim among the remains of taverns and deposits that were once teeming with life and goods from around the whole Mediterranean Sea which supplied Rome. There is also an ancient paved road which provided access to spas and villas.

The road Herculea lead to the coast of Portus Julius, the commercial port built by connecting Lake Averno to Lake Lucrinus. In the Zone A of the Marine Park, it is possible to explore the huge Villa dei Pisoni, built in the first century B.C. It belonged to the noble family of Pisoni, a family murdered by Nero which organised a failed conspiracy against the emperor.
Around a central rectangular area – the viridarium of the villa – there are several rooms for residential purposes, hallways and baths. Close to the Villa dei Pisoni there are the remains of the spa complex. In the same area the Nymphaeum Triclinium (banquet hall) of Emperor Claudio was discovered; many of the statues that adorned the nymphaeum represented the family of the emperor.

Close to the nymphaeum there is the Villa a Protiro, so called because of its peculiar arcade. A number of the rooms overlook a central atrium from which the sun-light comes in. Within these rooms there are some wonderful mosaics, particularly to the north-eastern side – 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 span a width of 10.37 meters. This was probably unrelated to the initial plan but is richly decorated in large marble slabs resplendent of the late-imperial domus ostiensis.

Visits can be organized with SUBAIA CAMPANIA DIVERS: info@puntacampanelladiving.com

One of the statues that adorned the Nymphaeum Triclinium (banquet hall) of the emperor Claudio, Baia Archeological Park, Bay of Naples, Italy. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens inside a Seacam underwater housing with two Seaflash 150 strobes; the exposure was 1/100sec at f/11, ISO 160.

One of the statues that adorned the Nymphaeum Triclinium (banquet hall) of the emperor Claudio, Baia Archeological Park, Bay of Naples, Italy. Taken on an EOS 5D Mark III with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens inside a Seacam underwater housing with two Seaflash 150 strobes; the exposure was 1/100sec at f/11, ISO 160. © Franco Banfi