Have you ever been to a museum that requires scuba gear?
We have Mount Vesuvius to thank for many things, including the Phlegraean Fields – the real-life inspiration for Dante’s Inferno. But if you’re looking for adventure off the beaten path and an outdoor piece of history that is a little bit more pleasant than the gateway to the underworld, I recommend the Underwater Archeological Park of Baiae.
The ancient Roman ruins of Southern Italy were submerged in the mid-1500s following a series of bradyseism events triggered by the never-quite-dormant volcano. Whether it is more tragic that they fell into the sea, or more interesting that we can visit them today accompanied by schools of fish, is left to the judgment of the visitor.
The Nymphaeum dates to the first century AD. It contains several statues including the one shown here. The statue is Antonia Minor, daughter of Mark Anthony with his wife Octavia, and great-grandmother of Emperor Nero.
Imagine swimming across the floor in a mansion.
Villa Protiro was a large colonnaded villa featuring multiple marble and mosaic floors. Several of them are still remarkably intact, and today’s visitor to the Underwater Archeologic Park scoots along above them, brushing sand away to reveal the intricate designs.
A beta reader of mine called B.S. when I described in my novel an underwater lead pipe with the name of the plumbing’s owner inscribed. “Who engraves their name on their plumbing?” She asked.
Lucius Piso, that’s who.
The fact that the Romans had piped plumbing two thousand years ago is remarkable enough in itself. The fact that they evidently personalized said plumbing is just plain crazy. The Pisonian Villa was identified as a summer residence of Lucius Piso by a length of lead pipe displaying his name. Of course, the main residence of Lucius Piso was the Herculaneum residence known today as the Villa dei Papiri.
Piso was the father-in-law of Julius Caesar.
Portus Julius was a massive port covering more than 10 hectares. It was this port that was first discovered from the air during World War II, an observation that led to the ultimate discovery of the entire ancient ruin of Baiae.
The activity of Mount Vesuvius is perhaps most prominent in the Smoky Reef, a deep reef surrounded by several meters of tall pillars. The active fumaroles bubbling from beneath the sea’s bed lend a smoky appearance to the pillars, and the combination of tall pillars surrounding deep sea bubbling with sulfurous gases creates an entire unique ecosystem between the pillars. Swim into this one-of-a-kind environment with an underwater camera, and return from your Italian vacation with a one-of-a-kind story to tell.
The Underwater Archeological Park of Baiae is just one of the unusual attractions available to visitors of the Phlegraean Fields area. For more information or to book a diving tour, please contact the Naples Diving Center. Snorkeling tours are also available.
This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, a novel by Kristen Elise. The Vesuvius Isotope is available in both print (www.kristenelisephd.com and www.amazon.com) and e-book formats (www.amazon.com for Kindle, www.barnesandnoble.com for Nook, www.kobo.com for Kobo reader.)