Baia on Italy’s west coast was once a place of debauchery and excess for the Roman upper class. Until the place literally sank because the sea swallowed it. You can still admire the ruins of the ancient city in the water today. But nobody knows for how much longer.
In the shallow sea waters off the Italian coastal town of Pozzuoli, about 30 kilometers from Naples, lies the Atlantis of Italy. We are talking about the lost city of Baia, also known by another name: the “Las Vegas of the Roman Empire”. Because up until about 2000 years ago, Baia was a place of unimaginable debauchery and excess, built for the Roman upper class. This is where the super-rich came to do business, relax at the city’s spas, or just to party.
As the ” BBC ” reports, the list of illustrious guests here reads like a “Who’s Who” of the Roman Empire. Accordingly, the famous writer Cicero had a second home here, as did the poet Virgil and the philosopher Pliny. According to legend, Egyptian Queen Cleopatra escaped from her captors after killing her lover Julius Caesar in 44 BC in Baia. And the Roman emperor Claudius was poisoned here by his own wife so that her son Nero could ascend the Roman imperial throne.
Pleasure gardens and thermal baths
The great asset of Baia were its thermal baths, which had hot medicinal waters due to volcanic activity in the ground under Baia. The mild climate on the west coast of Italy also played its part in the Roman upper class discovering the place for themselves. Squares paved with mosaics, houses made of volcanic stone and private pleasure gardens such as the Nymphaeum of Emperor Claudius, some of which still exist today, show how luxurious Baia must have been.
However, so much decadence could only displease the gods, and so the sinkhole of Baia met his fate. The volcanic activity in the area caused the earth to rise and fall here over the centuries, and Baia was slowly submerged by the Mediterranean Sea. Its ruins still lie in the water, which is on average six meters deep, and so the place has been given a new nickname: the Atlantis of Italy.
Italy’s Atlantis is open to tourists
The sunken city first came to public attention again in the 1940s when a pilot managed an aerial view of the ruins in shallow water. Geologists then began to take an interest in Baia. However, it was not until the 1960s that the facility was officially explored by submarine for the first time.
The investigations that photographers, divers and historians have made since then have established Baia’s reputation as the “Las Vegas of the Roman Empire”. With the help of 3D scanning technology, they resurrected the ancient city in all its luxury on the computer. Since 2002, the site has also been accessible to tourism as a protected underwater area. You can approach Baia in different ways. On the one hand, glass-bottom boats regularly visit the place, thanks to which you can get an overview. If you want to get even closer, you can either dive or snorkel.
Will Baia finally go under?
However, many of the statues that can still be seen underwater today are replicas. The originals are in a museum on land. Just like a part of Baia that is above sea level today. This was excavated in the 1950s by Amedeo Maiuri, who also opened up the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. But if you want to visit the Baia under water with your own eyes, you had better hurry.
Because scientists have predicted further volcanic activity for the region in the future. This could finally destroy the surviving ruins of Baia. In addition, diving or snorkeling would then be too unsafe to allow tourism here. And so it is to be feared that Baia, the Atlantis of Italy, could one day perish forever.