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Baia: The ancient underwater city

Baia, located on the western coast of the Phlegraean Peninsula, is an ancient and fascinating city that has its roots in Roman times. Known as one of the most important centers of antiquity, Baia was a favorite destination for the rich and powerful of the Roman Empire. Today, this city is famous for its submerged ruins and treasures hidden beneath the waters. In this article, we will take you to discover its fascinating history.

The history of Baia

Baia was considered the “Las Vegas of ancient Rome” for its glitz and luxury. The city was renowned for its thermal baths, lush gardens and sumptuous villas built along the coast. During the Roman era, Baia was a destination of choice for Roman nobles and the aristocracy, who retreated here to enjoy the pleasures of life, including sumptuous parties and healing thermal baths.

Baia’s rise began during the Roman Republic, when the city became a retreat for members of high society. Its strategic position and the natural beauty of the bay made it an irresistible destination.

During the imperial period, the city reached the height of its fame. Emperor Augustus contributed greatly to the development, building a holiday residence and a spa complex that attracted the attention of many. Baia became a favored place of residence for various subsequent emperors, including Caligula, Nero and Claudius.

What to see in Baia?

Archaeological park of the thermal baths of Baia

Baia’s main attraction was its opulent baths, a grand spa complex featuring saltwater pools, hot and cold baths, massage rooms, underground tunnels, and a thermal grotto dedicated to the goddess Venus. The architectural splendor of the baths was magnificent, adorned with columns and mosaics that attested to the expertise of the engineers and artists of that era.

Today, the Archaeological Park of the Baths of Baia allows visitors to immerse themselves in the history of this fascinating city, exploring the ruins of the baths, villas and temples that bear witness to its glorious history.

Roman baths of Baia

The underwater archaeological park of Baia

In recent decades, archaeological efforts have led to the rediscovery of part of Baia, which lies submerged off the coast. The Submerged Archaeological Park of Baia is today an extraordinary place that allows visitors to explore the underwater ruins of this disappeared Roman city. The ancient structures that were once part of daily life in Baia emerge from the depths.

Submerged Villas

One of the most iconic aspects of the park are the sumptuous submerged Roman villas. These aristocratic residences emerge from the sea depths, revealing well-preserved mosaic floors, majestic columns and frescoes that narrate the daily life of a distant era.

One of the most fascinating submerged villas in Baia is the Villa Pisoni. Belonging to the Pisoni family, this aristocratic residence was characterized by sumptuous rooms decorated with mosaics, frescoes and marble statues. The underwater exploration of this villa offers an extraordinary glimpse into the luxurious life of Roman high society.

Mosaics of the Pisoni villa – Baia

Equally extraordinary is Villa Protiro which reveals a great wealth of architectural and artistic details. Finely preserved mosaics, imposing columns and suggestive spa structures make this residence an unmissable stop on the journey through the underwater ruins.

A distinctive feature of Roman villas were private baths and spas. The submerged villas of Baia feature remains of these luxurious structures, where inhabitants could relax in refined settings and enjoy advanced spa services, demonstrating the level of comfort and opulence achieved by Roman society.

Punta Epitaph Nymphaeum

Another wonder to explore is the Nymphaeum of Emperor Claudius, a monumental structure dedicated to the nymphs, deities of the waters. This architectural complex offers fascinating details on Roman mythology and the connection between the Empire and nature.

The six statues that once adorned the Nymphaeum, now exhibited in copies in the Archaeological Museum of the Campi Flegrei, tell stories of marine divinities and portraits of illustrious figures of the time. Claudio’s guests, immersed in an atmosphere of elegance, enjoyed food, dancing and water games among the statues surrounding a central pool. The images of the Homeric scene of the Cyclops’ drunkenness give the Nymphaeum a unique mythological touch.

Portus Julius

The imposing ruins of Portus Julius rise below the sea surface, offering a fascinating sight for history buffs and diving enthusiasts.

The structure, originally commissioned by Augustus and Agrippa in 36 BC. to prepare the Empire for the conflict with Sextus Pompey, it was the headquarters of the Roman fleet, acting as a bulwark against external threats and as a strategic point for the control of the Mediterranean. Harbor docks, docks and parts of the defense system are still visible, allowing visitors to imagine the vitality of this seaport in ancient times. Initially designed for military purposes, the port has subsequently embraced new roles, becoming a vital commercial and logistics hub for the region.

Portus Julius – Baia archaeological park

The Aragonese castle

Baia Castle, also known as Aragonese Castle, has a history that dates back over a thousand years. Built in the 13th century at the behest of Charles I of Anjou, king of Naples, the castle stands on a hill that offers a panoramic view of the city of Baia and the sea. Over the centuries, the castle has hosted several noble families and played an important role in the defense of the coasts against pirate raids and enemy invasions.

Today, Baia Castle hosts an interesting museum dedicated to the history and tradition of the city. Within its walls, visitors can admire displays chronicling medieval life, military architecture and local traditions.

View of the Aragonese castle of Baia

Baia is a city that combines history, mythology and natural beauty. With its submerged villas, ancient temples and fascinating legends, Baia is a hidden treasure worth exploring. If you are passionate about history and underwater adventures, Baia is an unmissable stop on your journey to discover ancient Rome.