- 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Temples 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!