For hundreds of years dreamers have sought the lost city of Atlantis, while the sunken city of Baia sits just below the surface in Naples, Italy. It’s off-the-beaten-path, so most tourists have never heard of Baia. Yet, the underwater ruins are a diver’s fantasy while the ancient, top side ruins are mostly forgotten.
A local friend was shocked when I asked her to come with me. After all, she was a tour guide and wanted to show me the prettiest bits of Naples. I’m more of an adventurer and sought out the ancient ruins where Nero and elite Romans used to vacation some 2,000 years ago. This was their hedonistic arena in more ways than one.
You must dive to actually visit Nero’s dark pleasure palace. Its ancient beauty is still visible through the crystal clear waters of the Bay of Naples.
Marble statues remain in situ while fish swim around the ancient resort. Baia’s ruins rival its more famous neighbor Pompei. Some of the statuary, now rescued from their salty bath, are housed at the museum at nearby Castello Aragonese.
The Archaeological Park of Baia (via della Terme Romane) sits above the Bay of Naples in a mostly residential area. The guard at the gate is happy to see anyone because he hardly ever does.
Descend the same steps where toga-clad Romans came to soak in the volcanic spring waters. The spa complex slopes to the bay in terraced levels where people would play, relax and enjoy the literature of the day.
As we enter the Temple of Mercury sunlight beams down through the oculus and lights up my dreams. Goldfish once swam inside where the water was monitored, so as not to allow the salt levels of the sea to overwhelm the delicate fish meant to entertain.
Nearby a tree grows upside down from the ceiling of an outer building. No one knows why. Everything seems magical in this ancient place.
Baia is an archaeological site you can truly explore without limits. Many of the columns remain covered in blush-colored marble still smooth to the touch.
TOURIST TIPS: If you’d like to dive into the sunken city, set your course for the Parco Archeologico Sommerso di Baia The dive center at Centro Sub Campi Flegrei in Pozzuoli, can assist you. Tell them Wanderlust Women Travel sent you!
For landlubbers, it’s better to book a tour (Click Here) before you visit because the sites are not easy to navigate from the heart of Naples. Book the tour and enjoy the park and the seasonal glass-bottom boat which will get you as close as possible to the underwater city without diving under the seas.
Lisa Fantino is the author of the best-selling Italy travel memoir,“Amalfi Blue, Lost & Found in the South of Italy” and “Shrouded in Pompei.” Her upcoming mystery novel, “Fractured,” is due out early 2019.