Sunbathers relax by the Gaiola Island, The Underwater Park of Gaiola, a protected marine area.Posillipo.Naples.Italy.

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Parco Sommerso di Gaiola


Steep steps lead down to this marine reserve, rich in biodiversity and submerged Roman ruins. Due to its size, only 100 bathers are allowed through its gates at any one time (bring photo ID). Admittedly, the association managing the fragile reserve tolerates rather than encourages bathers. Instead, visitors should consider one of the educational activities offered, including year-round tours of the marine reserve and the clifftop Parco Archeologico del Pausilypon, littered with the ruins of the 1st-century BC Villa di Pollione.

The once-luxurious villa belonged to Publius Vedius Pollio, a wealthy friend of Emperor Augustus and, according to accounts by Pliny the Elder, a cruel, murderous figure who bred murene (large eels) in the coastal grottoes below, which are also visited on the guided tours.

Bequeathed to Augustus after Pollio’s death in 15 BC, the grounds include a Roman theatre, the venue for weekly sunset concerts and theatre performances in the summer. Known as the Pausilypon: Suggestioni all'Imbrunire (, the season usually runs from mid-June to late July.

The marine reserve offers daily kayaking, snorkelling and diving tours all year round. Guided archaeological tours (adult/reduced €6/3.50) run at from noon Tuesday to Friday, 10am and noon on Saturday, and 10am, 11am and noon on Sunday between April and September (no 11am Sunday tour the rest of the year). Glass-bottom boat tours (adult/reduced €12/10) run at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday from around April to the end of October. Check the reserve's website for more information.

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