In Italy, summer holidays mostly means long, sunny days to spend lying on the beach or on the cliffs and swimming in crystal-clear waters.
Yet, if you prefer action and would rather dive into a deeper shade of blue, Italian seas offer fantastic options for scuba diving, often matched with a stay in enchanting villages or luxury resorts. From the most exclusive areas of Sardinia and Sicily to the lesser known islets of the Mediterranean, one can choose from different destinations, options and periods: in Italy the warm season goes from May till September, and all the months in between are ideal to enjoy the country at its best both underwater and above.
Breath Taking Sardinia
Sardinia probably hosts Italy’s most appreciated seaside destinations. The whole coast of the huge island offers interesting diving sites to suit every taste: caves, wrecks, corals, crustaceans. At the southern end of the island, the granite rocks forming the Santa Caterina’s shallows near Villasimius are considered one of the top diving sites in the Mediterranean, allowing to catch sight of many different fish species and of two huge anchors.
In the North is the popular breath-taking Devil’s Cave near Golfo Aranci, an easy dive despite its name, touching a maximum depth of 18 mt. along a landslide where octopuses, congers and moray eels can be seen. The northern coastline also encompasses the mundane Emerald Coast, and hosts as many luxury resorts and villas as dreamy sandy beaches, heavenly islets, incredible sea bottoms and unique marine fauna.
Orso Diving in Poltu Quatu ioffers diving and snorkeling excursions to protected marine areas in Sardinia and Corsica, as well as other activities like whale watching. “We have a technical department for deep-sea diving and we organize wreck diving to a dozen of wrecks dating back to World War I and II”, the owner, Corrado Azzali told hiEurope. “This is one of the richest areas of the Mediterranean for cetaceans. We also have bot diving and snorkeling excursions to see fin whales and dolphins”.
A PADI instructor since 1986, Corrado was born in Northern Italy but has been living and diving in Sardina since 1987, where he chose to establish his school. Orso offers Suite & Boat or diving experience packages for guests of nearby luxury resorts, like the beautiful Romazzino luxury hotel in Porto Cervo. From here, divers can reach underwater sanctuaries around the small islands of La Maddalena, Tavolara and Lavezzi, an archipelago set in Corsica’s territorial waters. All of them are enlisted as geomarine parks to protect their unique habitat and the creatures inhabiting their sea bottoms, such as the huge groupers giving the name to the spectacular shallows in Lavezzi. Also the island of Caprera, part of La Maddalena archipelago, offers incredible diving sites with extremely varied bottoms and calm waters. “This is pretty much a unique place, probably the only one in the whole world where you can dive in three different protected areas within a short distance” Corrado underlined.
For more adventure, there is also the freediving training agency of Umberto Pelizzari, who used to hold the world record freediving and is now a TV host and writer. After his retirement he started a diving school together with Tommaso Muntoni, the No Limits Center - Diving Mediterraneo in Santa Teresa di Gallura. While Muntoni is in charge of all the scuba diving activities and courses, Pelizzari set up his own Apnea Academy which specializes in diving without equipment, so that divers just learn to hold their breath for as long as they are under water. Pelizzari’s own record was a free dive of -131 meters.
The area near Santa Teresa and the Bonifacio Strait may not be ideal for setting similar records due to its not-so-deep waters and currents, yet there are many interesting sites both for scuba and freediving. This includes the Angelika wreck and the Monte Regalo area, where granite boulders create spectacular passages. The No Limits center offers special packages to guests of the beautiful Spa resort of Valle dell’Erica, nearby. The hotel also offers free cooking lessons and a number of extra activities including treatments at the Le Thermae Thalasso Centre & SPA, golf lessons, windsurf, sailing and kite-surf courses, sports fishing charters and breath-taking excursions on the picturesque period wooden sailing boat Pulcinella or the stylish Leonidas Latin sailboat.
Diving Paradise Sicily
Sicily, too, is a paradise for diving as well as for art, nature, history and great food. All summed up in Taormina, the enchanting town nestled between the Ionian sea and the Etna volcano, featuring a stunning Greek theatre, still hosting concerts and shows. A renowned elite destination since the 18th century, Taormina is a perfect holiday resort.
Diving excursions here lead to the bewitching Isola Bella, meaning beautiful island. Very close to the coast, the islet is a protected natural site with white calcareous rocks and unique flora and fauna both above and under the water. Popular is a visit to the Air Cave, deep within Cape Taormina and only accessible to divers through an underwater passage. After entering the cave, divers can surface within its interior, breathe above water, and examine its rooms. The exterior of the cave is populated by octopus, squid, and the occasional giant sea slug. There are also machine gun parts, remaining from the second World War. Elsewhere, a Roman ship, carrying huge marble columns, was sunk at Cape Taormina, 2000 years ago. Today, divers can view their remains at 24 meters. It is interesting to view how nature reclaims its property, including a family of moray eels who setup house within the columns.
On Board the Blue Deer
For those who look for a total escape from busy life and don’t want to stay away from the sea even at night, the perfect option would be to rent a yacht. Former fashion designers Giorgia and Stefano Barbini rent out their Blue Deer Sunreef 74-foot luxury catamaran. Fully equipped for a relaxing vacation, the Blue Deer offers experiences beyond sailing, including the underwater ones. On board there is full diving equipment and the captain himself is a dive master. In summer, the Blue Deer navigates the Mediterranean, preferring the most secluded and lesser known coast and islets.
In Sicily, for example, the Eolian islands offer many beautiful diving sites such as the several shallows and rocks near Salina, where rare red corals, shrimps and turtles can be seen. Another favourite destination is the Ponza archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where divers can choose among many different options: caves, shallows, wrecks from World War II and the spectacular “Cathedrals” of the island Palmarola, a succession of four tall caves deeply penetrating into the rock, which end up in complete darkness.
Once re-emerged, guests can decide to experience the authentic Italian life interacting with the locals, or simply relax on board and enjoy the Mediterranean sun.
Orso Diving www.orsodiving.com
No Limits Center - Diving Mediterraneo www.divingmediterraneo.it
The Blue Deer www.sanlorenzolodges.com
Also Read: 6 Summer Paradise Islands