With a coastline spanning 7,600 km, making it the 14th longest in the world, and surrounded from east to west by different bodies of water, Italy has a comfortable relationship with the sea. Famous for its fresh seafood, the rugged Adriatic coastline and its beautiful Lake District in the north, it’s also a popular location for scuba divers of all ages and abilities.
Travellers heading to Italy may not immediately associate the country with scuba diving – food architecture and mopeds more commonly reach the top of the list – but in truth, Italy has a rich history of legend and fact that surrounds its underwater adventures. Alexander the Great was said to use one of the first diving bells to complement his military strategies, and evidence of free diving has been discovered from as far back as 3200BC. In the modern era, Italian divers worked tirelessly during WWII, and the country’s most famous sub-aquatic swimmer of all, Enzo Maiorca, holds multiple world records for free diving.
What makes Italy so attractive to modern scuba divers is the variety of sites and experiences to try. Military vessels lie in its depths, from Destroyers to Submarines, and the islands of Scilly and Sardinia are surrounded by waters as clear as the tropics, abundant with colourful marine creatures and reef life. The world’s deepest sinkhole, the Pozzo del Merro, exists not far offshore by its capital city Rome, and for something a little more unusual, dive the Ferdinandea Volcano just off the Scillian coastline – a 400m deep crater teeming with unusual creatures and vibrant corals.
Dive sites in Italy are endless and can be reached from most points around its lengthy coastline, and it’s also relatively easy to get to. Scuba diving in any of the surrounding waters – Tyrrhenian Sea, Ionian Sea, Adriatic Sea and the lesser known Ligurian Sea – is a year round sport, although the best months are arguably from April to December, and with plenty of dive shops to suit beginners through to experienced divers, Italy is a great destination for some underwater exploration.
The dive sites around Italy are varied from deep wreck dives to beginners drift dives, giving plenty of opportunity to experience all aspect of underwater exploration, and with the county being such a long, thin shape, travelling from one of its coastlines to another is relatively easy to manage. Freshwater dives inland are as popular and interesting as diving off shore, so planning a scuba diving holiday to this part of Europe doesn’t have to be focused on the coast.
The island of Sardinia off the west mainland coastline is a paradise of dive sites, with reef and drift dives the most popular choice for novice divers. La Galleria off Sardinia’s northeast coast is a vast underwater cave system that hasn’t yet been fully explored. Advanced divers are taken as far as the first few caves to view the unique rock formations and wonder at the unique marine life, including groupers, eels, sea fans and octopuses lurking in its dark passageways. This is one dive site where diving solo is heartily not recommended.
Lake Garda, ideally located between Venice and Milan, offers some spectacular freshwater diving, and the Il Cristo di Riva del Garda is one site that attracts divers from around the world. Located at the northern end of the Lake, this freshwater wall dive has a maximum depth of around 35m and visibility to around 10m. Marine life here is predominantly shoals of fish like Trout, Pike and Burbot, with a variety of eels also making an appearance.
One of Italy’s more historic sites, the sunken city of Baia – known in Italian as Parco Sommerso di Baia – is a flooded city lying just south of Rome, in a bay near Naples. The park is a protected site, and significant because of its historical importance, and unlike most dive sites, the interest here lies not in its reefs and coral formations, but in the buildings and statues that remain intact today. Mosaic floors, villas belonging to Emperors and rising columns are all a feature of this fascinating sub aquatic city.
Italy has a whole host of dive shops located mainly along its long coastline, although inland shops are more readily found in the north, close to the Italian lakes. Depending upon the location, they often specialise in particular types of dive trips and courses, making best use of the freshwater or saltwater sites near to them. Italy is served by a number of international airports that also service domestic flights as well, giving plenty of opportunity to travel to and around the country depending upon the sites you choose.
Located near Rome, the Blue Life Dive Team run a five star PADI outfit covering all courses from kids to technical diving. Run by two passionate Italian, and supported by international staff, they run trips to the west coast of Italy and provide great variety for their students. Dedicated to make scuba diving a way of life, their school runs an online forum for past and current students, and visiting divers, creating a very family-oriented feel.
Down at Italy’s heel, Diving Service is an Italian run scuba school with a range of PADI courses and a fully stocked ScubaPro showroom. This is a family run school, diving together since 1989, and with a passion they share with their students. Their favourite sites are the Torre Vado Wreck, a Turkish ship that sank in 2007 and now lies at a depth of 22m, and the Shrimp Cave, a fascinating cave dive not far from Punta Meliso.
Over on the island of Sardinia where scuba diving is nothing short of a national pastime, the east coast is flooded with dive shops and tour operators. Sardinia Divers is a PADI centre located not far from the Gennargentu National Park. Operating since 1996, and with staff who have spent more time in the water than out, this is one local outfit who really know the waters they dive in. Their shop is well stocked with ScubaPro and Mares gear, perfect for the conditions you’ll find at sites like the Cavern of the Oysters or the wreck of the KT12 German cargo ship.
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L'approccio alla subacquea avuto con Stefano Levanto, il proprietario, è stato veramente soddisfacente. Da tempo desideravo fare quest'esperienza e grazie a lui ho preso il brevetto OWD. Inutile dire che la mia personale passione e il piacere delle lezioni di Stefano mi hanno portato a voler prendere altre certificazioni. Consigliatissimo!
Near Marina Corta is the diving center la Gorgonia. With Pino and Michele you will discover the beauties of the eolian ilands. I did my first steps there and they gave me the passion for the underwater. Ask Pino for an advice, if you need a course or only a boat to drop you somewhere I'm sure he will help you out! Nice place & good people for sure