Italy is an underrated scuba diving location and not usually considered by divers. Although, it is one of the most popular countries in the world for tourism with 62 million tourists annually. Tourists flock here to experience the culture, good food and historical sites (the highest number of UNESCO sites in the world).
Most scuba divers head to Spain nearby, but if you know where to go, Italy has many areas that are perfect for diving. Areas such as the Almafi coast, Sardinia and Sicily are all excellent diving areas as well as popular holiday destinations.
Scuba Diving Conditions in Italy
Depending on where you visit, the conditions can change to some degree. In Rimini, the sea temperature ranges from 11c/52f in February to 26c/79f in August, quite a steep difference in seasons!
In Sardinia, the average sea temperature in January is 14c/57f but can reach 25c/77f in August.
There are 4 different seas surrounding the country. With the Adriatic on the Eastside, both the Mediterranean and the Tyrrhenian to the West and the Ionian to the south. One trip here and you can go diving in 4 different seas! Sign me up!
The visibility can vary depending on your location. With the southern Mediterranean waters around Sardinia having the greatest clarity, up to 50m on a good day.
Many tourists liken the waters in Sardinia to the Caribbean, but you will have to judge that for yourself!
STW have chosen what we think are some of the best dive sites in Italy below!
Archaeological Marine Park of Baia (Naples)
First up is the Archeological Marine Park of Baia. Located near Naples (about 25 minutes by car), this area has some fantastic Ancient Roman architecture to check out! The city of Baia, back in the times of the Ancient Romans, was the Las Vegas of its day. With famous leaders such as Nero and Caesar coming here to bathe in the volcanic waters of the city. However, the good times were not meant to last and the city was abandoned after literally falling into the sea.
The area is prone to the phenomenon ‘Bradisismo’ which to you and me, means the city has been sinking, and then rising, for centuries. This means there are many Roman archaeological sites in the waters that can be found.
There are 5 sites that you can dive here, with the highlight being ‘Villa a Protiro’. This site is the most famous and has an original black and white mosaic on the seabed. There are also statues dotted around the dive sites, but these are just replicas. The originals are housed safely in the museum on land.
You can also find remaining portions of walls and various structures. Whilst the marine life is not the best, for the experience of diving amongst ancient Roman ruins, we included it on the list.
There are numerous dive sites in the town, with 1 dive costing around £35/$45. You usually get this cheaper if you combine this into a two dive package, diving one site in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Ustica is a must for those who love scuba diving and nature in general. The waters around the island are a marine reserve and were the first to be protected in Italy.
This tiny island, about 12km in circumference, is home to 1,500 people. Tourists are mainly attracted to the island for its fantastic beaches. It is also very peaceful and great for a relaxing holiday above the water.
Ustica is located 67km away from Palermo, the region’s capital of Sicily. To get to this island you need to come by boat. There are no airports on the island. Ferries leave year-round from Palermo and you can get a ferry in summer from Naples.
The ferry takes around 2 and a half hours from Palermo depending on the conditions. The ferry from Naples is longer, taking around 4 hours.
The protected marine area was established by the Italian government in 1986 (the first in Italy) and it has done wonders for the marine environment here. There is also an underwater museum here, along with numerous ‘Grotta’ or caves for the non-Italiano speakers.
There are quite a few dive centres located within the main town, due to the popularity of the marine reserve. So, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to book dives.
Where to Dive in Ustica?
There are numerous dives sites in the area. Take a look here at Blue Diving Ustica for a detailed look at the sites of the area, as well as tech diving sites.
There are dives sites along the entire coast of the island, with various conditions to dive. New divers will feel safe at many of the sites due to the relaxed conditions. However, if you are more experienced, check out Grotta Dei Cirri (Cave of the Cirri) for a deep dive to 50m inside Cirrus cave. You need to be a very experienced diver to dive this site.
If you are looking for something more relaxed, check out Punta Galera. This spot is popular with newer divers due to shallow depth and lack of currents. You can find many species of fish here as well as interesting rock formations to check out.
Ustica is a fantastic place to visit if you are looking for a quiet escape from the tourist trail. The natural landscapes here will leave you feeling relaxed and settled.
The island of Sardinia is the second-largest in the Mediterranean and is located on the west hand side of the country. The island boasts 1,849km of coastline, offering a huge amount of potential dive sites. Some consider Sardinia to have the best scuba diving in Italy!
The water temperatures here are also very warm in the summer months, with visibility being on average, the best in Europe.
In terms of what you will see, Sardinia boasts wrecks, caves and reefs. There are also many shore dives for newer divers as well as deeper caves for the tech divers out there.
Getting to Sardinia
Most people fly into Sardinia, with Cagliari being the largest and main airport. Alghero and Olbia are two smaller airports but this could be a better choice if you are coming from Northern Europe.
If you are coming from the Italian mainland, there are 14 possible routes you can take. However, if you are in a rush, the route between Olbia and Piombino is the fastest. The journey takes 5 hours and 30 minutes and will drop you in the port of Olbia. Near the tourist regions on the Northeastern side of the island.
If you are staying in Olbia, head to nearby Tavolara island for some awesome diving. The waters around this island are a protected marine area. Because of this, the marine life here is abundant and thriving. The dives sites here are suitable for both beginners and advanced divers. Visibility is also excellent, upwards of 40m in the summer months.
If wreck diving is more of your thing, head further down the east side of the island to Orosei to dive the famous KT12 wreck. This German cargo ship was sunk by a British submarine on the 10th of June 1943.
KT12 is very close to the harbour, only taking 10 minutes to reach by boat. The wreck is located at a depth of 30-35m so you will need to hold be advanced level certified. The wreck is 60m long and offers a chance to see the usual wreck species such as Moray eels and Scorpionfish. Be sure to check out the gun located on the deck!
Near the city of Genoa, is the small fishing village of Portofino. Portofino is now famous for being a holiday village of celebrities such as Robert de Niro and Madonna. But, this charming village also boasts some excellent dive sites. As well as, one of the most famous underwater statues in the country. But, we will cover that a little further down.
The summer water temperatures hover around 24c/75f to 26c/79f between July and September with the visibility running into the 30m-40m range.
There are over 20 dive sites in the area for the adventurous diver to explore.
The area surrounding this coast has been a protected marine area since 1999 and covers a large area. Human activity that could damage the environment here is prohibited and as a result, marine life has been increasing every year.
If you want to dive into a famous site that has spawned many recreations around the world, head to ‘Cristo Degli Abissi’ or ‘Christ of the Abyss’.
This bronze statue is located at a depth of 17 meters and is popular with divers, snorkelers and free-divers. Duilio Marcante placed the statue on the seabed in memory of Dario Gonzatti who passed in 1947. Gonzatti was an Italian scuba diving pioneer who was testing equipment when he sadly died. The statue is dedicated to those who lost their lives at sea. Portofino is considered one of the homes of scuba diving in Italy, with the sport first emerging in the area.
There are numerous other places to dive in Italy. But STW felt the sites above deserved a special mention due to the fantastic dive sites as well as the areas ‘above the water’.
Not set on Italy? Find other areas to visit here!
Did we miss your favorite location of the list? Leave us a comment and we will add it! Thanks for reading, STW.