The Gaiola Underwater Park: Naples below sea level
The Gaiola Underwater Park, a stone’s throw from downtown Naples, is a protected marine area in the city’s gulf, right in front of the Posillipo quarter. The coast there is “the most evocative landscape in the area. It is a steep, tuff cliff where natural and artificial caves and nooks open up. The remains of a number of Roman villas have emerged both on land and under water here, proving how much this area was populated and appreciated in antiquity for its view, and also bearing testimony to the local bradyseismic activity” (L. De Maria – R. Turchetti, “Rotte e porti del Mediterraneo dopo la caduta dell’Impero romano d’Occidente”, Rubettino, Soveria Mannelli 2004).
The vestiges of the old buildings scattered on the park’s sea bottom are the submerged parts of one of the many ancient buildings that used to be here: the Imperial Villa of Pausilypon, which belonged to Vedio Pollione, a freedman and friend of Emperor Augustus.
According to “Rotte e porti”, “The complex was built in the 1st century BC and was used until late-Imperial Age. The submerged remains of the Villa’s harbor can be seen along the seaboard, in ‘opus pilarum’; a number of remains from other buildings – perhaps thermal baths or nymphaei – also emerge from the water. The latter go down up to 3.7 meters under sea level, while marine abrasion has left traces on ruins up to 2 meters under”.
The 42 hectares of this underwater park are home to a remarkable flora and fauna – take a guided tour to sigh some of the many Mediterranean species living here.
All in all, above or under water, Gaiola is a gem of nature and history.