Italy is known for its culture and excellent cuisine, and hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to this sunny nation for its charming beaches and clear waters. What some may not know is that scuba diving is also something worth trying when visiting Italy, with thousands of miles of coastline to explore.
Italians themselves have been interested in diving since ancient times. Evidence of freediving goes back to the 3200BC, and Alexander the Great was said to use one of the first diving bells ever made for military purposes.
Today, modern dives can explore a variety of dive sites, including wrecks, reefs, caves, and caverns. The water is clear as in the tropics and marine life is abundant in creatures of all shapes and sizes. Freshwater dives are as popular and interesting as salt water dives. Scuba divers can even dive the crater of the Ferdinandea Volcano in Sicily, which is teeming with unusual creatures.
Scuba diving in Elba Island. Photo by Anders Finn
The scuba diving season in Italy runs from April through November. Note that August is typically the most popular month, so you may experience crowded dive sites.
The water temperature in Italy varies depending on season and location. The lowest water temperature recorded throughout the country is about 13° C/56° F, with the coldest month being February. The highest water temperatures are recorded during summer (June through August) when temperatures reach up to 25° C/78° F.
The currents vary from weak to medium. Many of the dive sites here are free from currents.
Water visibility is renowned for being very good in Italy. On many of the dive sites, you will enjoy visibility that goes from 15 to 40 meters (50-130 feet).
The largest of all Italian islands, Sicily is among the most popular regions for diving thanks to its warm climate year-round and interesting dive sites. Dive sites around Sicily and its surrounding islets consist of walls, shipwrecks, pinnacles, caves, and patches of seagrass. At most dive sites, divers can spot moray and conger eels hiding in the crevices along with shrimp and lobsters. The seabed and walls of gorgonian sea fans are home to groupers, bream, octopus, anthias, nudibranchs, crabs, and flying gurnards. Around Taormina, the Grotta Azzurra cave and the wreck of a Roman cargo ship are a must-see for experienced divers. The Aeolian Islands, home to the active volcano Stromboli, host impressive lava walls covered in gorgonian sea fans. Lampedusa Island, the southernmost point of Italy, is the place to visit if you wish to encounter large pelagic species.
Also one of the best diving regions in Italy, Sardinian waters are a haven for technical divers, that can enjoy excellent cave and wreck dive sites. Rest assure, beginners can also make the most of their time here, with a variety of easy shore dives to choose from.
One of the most popular dive sites in Sardinia is the Grotta del Nereo, a series of caves and tunnels that are home to the largest species of mussels in the world – the Pinna Nobilis fan mussel. Wreck divers can explore the KT German ship, the Japanese tanker called Angelica, and the huge Italian freighter known as The Cogliano.
View from Grotta di Nereo. Photo by Marco Busdraghi
Tourists visit Rome to immerse themselves in the history and culture of this fascinating city, but you may be surprised to know that Rome also has some good dive spots. One of the main sites near Rome, off the coast of Civitavecchia, is the Saint Lucia wreck, a WWII ship that lies broken in two at about 44 meters (145 feet). Another popular dive is the Costacuti Reef, featuring a wall of red gorgonians and an old Roman anchor.
The Sorrentine Peninsula pierces the Mediterranean Sea, with its sheer cliffs plunging into the water. Diving is defined by the same topography found above the surface of the water: steep drop-offs, caverns, and caves. The protected marine area of Punta Campanella is one of the most popular areas for diving in Sorrento, with its healthy marine ecosystem. Some of the highlights of diving in Sorrento include encounters with the yellowtail tuna and amberjacks, the beautiful sea fans, and colorful invertebrates.