Ever since the myth of Atlantis captured my imagination as a young girl, I have always been fascinated by the presence of sunken underwater cities and later on I made it my mission to discover whether in fact any existed in Italy’s waters.
Some years later a Neapolitan friend revealed to me that just off the northwest shore of the Gulf of Naples, there was an ancient Roman Atlantis hiding beneath the surface of the sea and showed me some remarkable pictures of the underwater city of Baia.
The city, which was located over natural volcanic vents, was a famous coastal resort at the end of the Roman Republic and much of the elite had their holiday villas here. Baia was not only renowned for its therapeutic natural saunas and wonderful location, but it soon became like a classical Las Vegas with a casino on site, where hedonism reigned supreme and provided the perfect playground for Roman emperors such as Nero, Julius Caesar and Caligula.
Unfortunately the good times were not to last, as Baia was sacked by the Saracens in the 8th century and by 1500, the remains of the formerly luxurious town were abandoned due to recurrent malaria. Because the coast subsided, largely due to local volcanic activity, most of Baia is now underwater in the Bay of Naples.
Today the ancient ruins of this forgotten paradise of the rich and famous can be visited in one of the very few underwater archaelogical parks. Visitors can admire the crumbled structures and well preserved statues through glass-bottom boats, snorkelling or even scuba diving expeditions, which allow people to swim through the ruins. Baia may no longer be a famous resort, but its waters still hold the wonders of a very glorious past!