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Diving what remains of the Village of Vice

There was a plan. Then life happened and scrambled it. So, then there was nlap. Or rather it was lpn as it not only scrambled the plan but bits got lost. Our lpn turned into a week of culture, food, dives, more food and a good friend!

Two of the dives we did were heading back to the Phlegraean Fields in Baia to look at the underwater mosaics.

From the end of the second century BC until the end of the third century AD, Baia was the Hamptons of ancient Rome. Roman aristocrats and the Imperial family all had luxurious villas on the bay. It was described as a place of extravaganza and debauchery. Seneca writes about Baia the “village of vice” and Ovid describes it as an “appropriate place to make love”. Luxury, parties, alcohol, sex and thermal baths.

At the end of the fourth century the first observable signs of the land sinking into the sea (you can read about this geological phenomenon here) cause the town to be abandoned and the villas to be preserved underwater.

Since my last visit they restored some new mosaics and have opened a couple new ones to the public. Interestingly, the restoration was done with an innovative technique that can be conducted directly underwater and it aims at protecting the remains from biological infestation, cleaning of surfaces and recovery of architecture (you can read the technical details here).

The visibility wasn’t great to start with, and to preserve the mosaics they cover and uncover them with sand at each visit. This does stir particulate (which tends to sediment quite quickly) but it also attracts fish that know that divers will turn the sand for them and they too come flocking for a party, like Roman aristocrats. My camera was playing up (the hot-shoe that controls the strobe went) and obviously when we reached the last, most stunning mosaic which I hadn’t seen before featuring two wrestlers, the battery died. That mosaic is the only one which isn’t a pattern but has figures and it really is stunning. We also visited the submerged thermal baths where if you put your octopus at the openings of one of the pipes and purge air you see bubbles coming out of the vents where steam would have come from to make the steam room.

As always it was a great day of diving followed by a quick stop at the local cheese maker’s to buy a fresh buffalo mozzarella, typical of the area.

After a couple of intense land-based days we headed for another day of diving this time at L’Argentario in Tuscany. We got blown out so we could not head to the Marine reserve of Giglio Island so we did two still great dives on a wall where we saw nudibranchs, groupers, a moray eel, octopus and gorgoneia.

I also wanted to dive Capod'acqua which is a sunken village but unfortunately it was closed when we wanted to go. But hopefully you will find all the info on it on this website in the near future, as I plan to dive it soon.


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