by Nick Lucey
It’s the birthplace of the Renaissance, a mecca of design, art, architecture, fashion, romance and cuisine. It’s proudly perched on the interface between the Old World and the new wave. But Italy, projecting into the Mediterranean Sea like a long haute-couture boot, also tempts divers with an extremely long coastline, myriad islands and warm, clear water inviting you to slip beneath the surface. What are you waiting for? Go now!
HOT DIVE SITES
Sardinia—Italy and the Mediterranean Sea’s largest island—is known for three things: its beaches, the clarity of its water and colorful underwater scenes. You can get there by ferry or plane, but for diving, you'll want to try St. Elmo’s Rock, a dive site with caves and caverns that encompasses nearly all the species you could encounter in the entire Mediterranean as well as the famous Secca del Papa with its imposing granite and fish life dancing around the rocks.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort near Sardinia
Sicily, Italy’s largest island, offers many opportunities to dive in some of the country's warmest water. Off the coast of Aci Trezza are three tall column-shaped islands, called the Ciclopi Rocks where, according to legend, Polyphemus threw those stones at Ulysses. In addition to the dark volcanic rocks, colorful basalt and huge sea fans, you'll have the chance to see wrecks, dating from Roman times all the way through the two World Wars.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort near Sicily
In the Tuscany Archipelago, Elba is the island made famous by Napoleon’s nearly year-long exile. But for divers, the island offers much more welcoming possibilities like pelagic animals and breathtaking drop-offs. Check out Punta di Fetovaia, a dive site marked by red, white and yellow gorgonians, lobsters, barracuda and pelagic fish, as well as schools of chromis and grouper.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort near Elba
Isole Pontine, an archipelago between Rome and Naples that includes Ponza and Ventotene Islands, is a volcanic archipelago. Because it was formed as part of an ancient volcano, the area offers interesting topography for divers, including caves, caverns, grottos and a wreck. Some interesting dive sites include Relitto Santa Lucia (the wreck of the Saint Lucia), La Secchitella, Punta Falcone and Punta dell’Arco.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort near Rome
Depth: Varies widely depending upon destination and dive site but can range from shallow to 40 metres/130 feet.
Visibility: Ranges widely, but you'll find some of the best off Italy’s Mediterranean islands up to 50 metres/165 feet.
Currents: Can range from nonexistent to strong, depending on location.
Water Temperature: From 15-25° C/60- 80° F, depending on time of year, location and depth.
Dive Season: The peak season runs from April to October, but you can dive throughout the year. August can be crowded on the larger islands.
Weather: The weather in Italy is typically mild by European standards, but can vary widely by location. Expect an average winter low of 3° C/38° F and winter high of 13° C/55° F. Summer average lows are approximately 18° C/64° F and summer highs are about 29° C/85° F.
Access: Most international flights arrive at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci (FCO) or Milan’s Malpensa (MXP) airports. You’ll then more than likely connect with a regional airport, and public transportation is always a safe option.
Skill Level: Divers of all skill levels will find something to enjoy when diving Italy.
Scuba Gear: Most Italian dive centers hire gear, but it's always comfortable to have your own.
Length of Stay: A week to 10 days is ideal for taking in both the underwater topside sights.
Featured Creatures: You'll find typical Mediterranean life like congers, nudibranchs, lobster, with colorful corals, gorgonians and sponges.
Language: Italian, of course! English is also widely spoken in the major tourist areas.
Transportation: Whether you take a train, ferry, car, bus or plane, transportation around Italy is relatively easy.
Major Airports: Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) outside of Rome and Milan's three airports (Milano Malpensa Airport – MXP, Linate Airport — LIN and Caravaggio Airport Bergamo Orio al Serio — BGY) are among Italy’s busiest. You can also fly into airports like Palermo Airport (PMO) on Sicily, Cagliari-Elmas Airport (CAG) on Sardinia, and others.
Religion: Predominantly Roman Catholic.
Electricity: Electricity in Italy runs at 230V/50Hz and primarily uses a plug with two or three rounded pins (Type C, Type F and Type L).
Tipping: Is not mandatory and is not included in the bill. It depends on your level of satisfaction but is appreciated.
For more information, visit the Italian Tourism Official Website.
Want to know more? Visit www.scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more.
Nick Lucey was an editor at Scuba Diving Magazine for 15 years and now hosts a dive travel television show called Into the Drink.