The jewel-encrusted knee-high boot of Italy lends itself to 7,600 km of coastline, four seas and numerous islands dotted right around the coast offering fantastic locations for scuba diving and snorkelling. Envy Italy dives into the best spots for your first diving trip to Italy.

Elba Island

With a large variety of marine life, set dive trails and a shallow shipwreck (12 metres) with great visibility, Elba offers fantastic dive sites that are great for photography and beginners. On the north coast of the island the protruding rocks above the water mark the location of Formiche della Zanca. Dive down and you descend to an amazing seabed with a maze of set trails for divers to follow. Expect to see sun fish, octopus, amberjack, sponges, red corals, sea fans and seahorse.

Sardinia

With its famous crystal-clear aquamarine waters and underwater cave formations Sardinia is a favourite with all levels of diver, particularly on the east side of the island. Beginners and snorkellers can enjoy many shore dives while more advanced divers can enjoy the caves, the most popular being the Grotta del Nereo. There are three entrances to the caves with one 100 metres down, where you can then swim up the chimney to one of the shallower entrances. The marine protected areas of the Maddalena and Marine Park of Lavezzi offer plenty of marine life to swim among. Expect to see lobsters, red coral, nudibranchs and Pinna nobilis fan mussels. The Grouper Reef is home to a colony of territorial groupers weighing 60–90 lb (30–40 kg). Wrecks include the KT, a long German ship that sank in 1943 in the marine protected areas of the Maddalena and Marine Park of Lavezzi.

Sicily

Visibility is great in the waters of Sicily; however, some dive sites have swift currents so do your research if you are a beginner. At the islands of Aeolian and Aegadian there are shipwrecks and caves to explore. Near Taormina there is a Roman cargo shipwreck and the Grotta Azzurra. At the southernmost point of Sicily you can spot large marine life such as sea turtles, dolphins, some shark species and, if you are lucky, manta rays. In other dive spots expect to see sea fans, sponges, groupers and octopus.

Submerged Cities and Statues

Portofino on the Italian Riviera offers some great diving opportunities too. Christ of the Abyss is an original cast bronze statue of Jesus Christ by Guido Galletti, submerged between Camogli and Portofino.

Underwater Cities

Baiae Archaeological Park, in the Campi Flegrei area of Naples, is a diver’s dream. Ruins of ancient noble villas, thermal baths, courtyards, columns, marble statues and roads dating back to ancient Roman times lie just a few metres from the surface and, together with marine life, it creates a unique and unexpected underwater Mediterranean landscape. Once a thriving health resort for nobles of Rome, the area sank into the sea due to volcanic activity and can now be enjoyed by snorkellers and beginner divers as well as the advanced. New mosaics were recently discovered in the seabed and are now included in the park’s diving routes. In this marine protected area expect to see octopus, sea urchins and starfish.

Gaiola

Another such location is the underwater city of Gaiola, near the Gulf of Naples. Ancient remains of seaside villas, majestic tuff quarries, landing places, nymphaea and fish ponds are today visible along the coast above and just below the surface of the sea.

To learn, or experience, diving in Italy a good place to start is Subaia Campania Divers which is a diving centre located in Baia, close to Pozzuoli (Naples). They organise diving or snorkelling excursions in the Archaeological Marine Park (the underwater ancient Roman ruins) and wonderful diving sites in the Gulf of Naples, Ischia Islands, as well as Capri and the coast of Sorrento. Visit their websites for more information:

www.puntacampanelladiving.com and www.subaia.com