Baia: Gate to Hell or Heaven on Earth?

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A couple of days ago Monica noted this article in Napoli’s newspaper, “Il Mattino”. It is about new important archaelogical findings in Baia, and it is closely related to our week-end in Procida.

New mosaic found as reported by Il Mattino

Back in the Roman times the Pozzuoli Gulf used to be a pretty popular place for vacation, but not for everyone. The town of Baia was the place to be if you were a mundane person; several magnificent villas faced the shoreline. It was like Heaven on Earth. Close by there were the navy port (Miseno) and the commercial port (Puteoli, now Pozzuoli). If that was not enough to make this a special archaeological place, nature added it’s cherry on the top. How?

Phlegraean Fields. How many volcanic cones can you count?
Phlegraean Fields. How many volcanic cones can you count?

Baia and the whole area is part of the Phlegraean Fields, a large volcanic area subject to bradeyseism, a volcanic activity that makes the ground rise and dive over time as if it was breathing. Mother Nature in this area has heavily marked the history of the whole Campania region. Two huge explosions, about 30.000 and 12.000 years ago, projected melted rocks all around Campania, creating a special rock (Tufo) that has been an excellent construction stone for centuries. Many different volcanic phenomena have been a constant in this area, impressing people to the point that this place was believed to be the gate to Hell; in fact one of the volcanic lakes of the area is named “Lago d’Averno (Hell’s lake). The area is reach of thermal springs that are used still today at Agnano Thermae. The climate is very good. It has been a vacation place for millennia. This is just to give a taste of the area as it would take a book to cover it appropriately, and I would not be the best person to write it.

F0007_002The result? An amazing archaeological site under water, a paradise for scuba divers. Even though Baia site was discovered from aerial photos back in the ’40s, the first map of the site was only done in 1960, various discoveries were made in the ’60s and 70s, the first structured excavation campaign started in 1984, and much work is still to be done.

The “Il Mattino” article I started from is about this: new discoveries under water. A 20 sqm (about 220 square foot) mosaic, and a 2 m tall statue in the “villa dei Pisoni” excavation area. The report says that these are the most important findings since the initial ones in ’60s.

Baia is now a protected area. There are archaelogical sites and museums you can visit on the ground, and there is also a unique “Parco Archeologico Sommerso di Baia” (Submarine Archaeological Park). It is a protected area where diving and sailing are restricted. Anyhow there is the possibility to have guided tours in the area, both diving and sailing with glass-bottomed boats. This site contains more details about the area, the history and some diving options: There are also others. We have not tried any of them so we cannot give our opinion, but it looks like an interesting option for a week-end in the area.

This area used to be a destination for Sunday morning excursions with my family. Time to plan another visit there with the FourItalianFriends… and to take back nice pictures, impressions and useful information. On the To-Do list.

2 Responses

  1. Cesare

    A video of the mosaic taken by a Coastguard diver has been posted here.
    Not high quality, but it is exciting to see his hand wash off the dust from the mosaic.

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