Gaiola: an island in the city

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This time I want to talk about something I don’t know.


Island of Gaiola

Cape Posillipo area
Cape Posillipo area

So far we have been talking mostly about places we are rediscovering, but there are places that I have never visited, or that were not accessible when I lived there, so it is more a “discovery” than a “rediscovery”. One of these places is the area of the “Gaiola”.

It is called “island” on the maps, but it is just two rocks in the sea a few meters out of Posillipo cape, which separates Napoli Gulf from Pozzuoli Gulf, connected by a thin natural arch. Just like Baia and Cuma on the opposite reef (see our article on Baia here), this is an area that ancient and modern populations have adopted for their vacation given the beauty of the natural setting. The very name of the area come from ancient Greek “Pausilypon” which means “relief from pain”, where the pain referred to is not the physical one.

The island of Gaiola has been used in different ways over time: site for a small temple with ancient Romans, then for factories (excellent connection by sea), then for a defense battery, then for a hermit, lastly for a villa built at the beginning of the 20th century. This villa had several famous owners, including Gianni Agnelli and Paul Getty. Now it is public property. I did not expect the Gaiola to be on English wikipedia, but it is!

Coast in the Cape Posillipo area
Coast in the Cape Posillipo area

This part of the coast is not really part of the city even though it is in the city. The reef is rocky and steep, and the main street and buildings stay up there. To get to the coast you have to drive off some small and winding roads that go down to the sea level. Once there, it is another world, and the city is forgotten. For this very reason for centuries, and even today, this has been a place of beautiful villas and expensive retreat. Today you can visit Roman remnants, above and below the surface level, as well as gorgeous palaces from XIX century.
In the last few years a non-profit association offers very interesting opportunities to visit the area, which includes the archaeological Gaiola Underwater Park : walking tours, boat tours with glass-bottomed boats, snorkeling tours, birdwatching toors, and even concerts at sunset in some periods of the year. Enough to say “I must do it”. Information about this association, the tour description (in Italian) with pictures and information about reservations can be found here:



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