What was once a seaside resort 2,000 years ago for wealthy Romans is now the world’s largest underwater museum - with 15,000 visitors each year.
In the waters of the Gulf of Pozzuoli, near Naples, Italy, are ancient Roman mosaics. This was part of the city of Baiae before it submerged due to volcanic activity known as, “Bradyseism, that caused the land to submerge, or rather it is the land that submerged was replaced by the sea,” explains Fabio Pagano, director of the Archeological Park of Campi Flegrei.
Statues and ruins of this 2,000-year-old resort, famed for luxury and vice, are now a marine visitor attraction, just 4 metres below the surface and spanning over 400 acres. Tourists can explore the ruins by snorkelling or scuba-diving with a registered guide. There are seven dive spots to choose from, including Portus Julius, the home of senator Piso and the nymphaeum of emperor Claudius.
Other emperors, including Augustus, Nero and Caligula had homes in Baiae, and some of the ruins of the villa belonging to Julius Caesar are on display at the nearby Campi Flegrei archaeological museum.
Archaeologists have found dozens of antiques, most recently a huge marble column. Some describe Baiae as the Monte Carlo of the ancient Roman era, a place where the rich and powerful went to enjoy the balmy climate, quaff wine, eat oysters and indulge every pleasure imaginable.
Some of the artifacts have been brought ashore by archeologists hoping to protect them from rock-eating marine organisms, strong tides and thieves, but copies have been placed underwater for visitors enjoyment.
There is still much to be discovered of the submerged city and later this year, for the first time in over three decades, excavations will start again in earnest.