Aenaria, Ischia's underwater city

Discover an unusual and mysterious destination, the ancient Roman city under the sea of ​​Ischia

Aenaria, Ischia's underwater city
Aenaria, Ischia's underwater city

A mysterious ancient Roman city submerged by the waters of the Mediterranean, which you can visit aboard a transparent-bottomed boat or swimming with a mask and fins: this is the legendary Aenaria. The site of this ancient Roman settlement that gave its name to the entire island of Ischia is still largely unknown to the majority of tourists and also to many of the islanders themselves.

Rediscovered and more appreciated in recent years, Aenaria can now be visited thanks to a local cooperative which organizes diving, snorkeling, and guided tours aboard a special boat with a transparent bottom. Very few people know about this place, and in this article we explain everything you need to know to visit the underwater ruins of Aenaria.

Where is the underwater city of Aenaria?

For many centuries the ruins of Aenaria remained well hidden on the bottom of the Tyrrhenian Sea, several meters under the waters of Cartaromana Bay off the village of Ischia Ponte. This stretch of sea between the Aragonese Castle and the rocks of Sant'Anna is quite popular. Every once in a while, ancient artifacts would emerge from the sea of ​​Ischia. Now those finds can be admired at the Archaeological Museum of Pithecusae in Lacco Ameno. However, underwater the sand and Posidonia (Neptune grass) has protected the last traces of Aenaria for over 1,900 years.

Pierino Boffelli and Rosario D'Ambra, two young Ischia residents and avid scuba divers, were the first to discover blocks made of lead and pieces of galena (lead ore) underwater in this area. Starting in 1973 they brought this archaeological area to light.

Excavations have been underway since that time. New archaeological artifacts occasionally re-emerge, and with them, new evidence of Ischia's distant past. Among the many travelers who come to the island every year, very few know about and visit this small "Atlantis of Ischia." That makes it the ideal destination for visitors seeking a unique experience off the beaten path.

Ischia three-day itinerary

History of the ancient city of Aenaria

Aenaria was a thriving Roman citadel, founded in the 4th century BC and suddenly abandoned between 130 and 150 AD due to a violent volcanic eruption and the same tsunamis which then completely engulfed it.

It was a commercial center very active in the processing of lead, iron, and copper. The name Aenaria, in fact, derives from the Latin aenum, which means metal.

The settlement was built around a large port and several foundries and also boasted luxurious coastal villas with statues, columns, mosaics, and frescoes. As the coastline advanced and volcanic activity changed the morphology of the island of Ischia, everything ended up under nearly 20 feet of sea water.

How to visit the underwater city of Aenaria

Since 2011, an underwater archeology project has promoted the rediscovery and appreciation of this submerged city, which can now be visited aboard a glass-bottomed boat. Guided tours are organized by Marina di Sant'Anna cooperative, a group of fishermen and former fishermen from Ischia Ponte who now promote cultural tourism on the island. The experience lasts approximately 70 minutes.

Snorkeling in the ruins of Aenaria

If you're passionate about scuba diving or snorkelling, you can visit the mysterious Aenaria even with a mask, fins and snorkel, joining one of the tours organized by some diving centers on the island. You will start from the coasts of Ischia Ponte to reach the diving point, where you will also be provided with all the necessary equipment. Usually, the experience includes several stages to discover underwater caves and other submerged sites. The tours are active between May and October, no diving license or experience is required, just good aquatic skills.

What to see in Ischia Ponte

How much does the visit cost?

Prices start from around 30 euros per person for boat tours and from 40-45 euros for snorkeling and diving experiences. Reservations are mandatory. For any additional information visit the cooperative's website or call +39 0812304911.

What to see in Aenaria

Before setting sail to discover Ischia underwater, you'll enter a multimedia room to view an informative video lasting approximately 20 minutes. After the screening, you board a boat with a transparent bottom and travel to the archaeological site. During the cruise, which lasts about 10 minutes, you'll see the village of Ischia Ponte from at sea, as well as the Aragonese Castle, Michelangelo's Tower, churches, and other historic buildings.

Once on site, you'll view the seabed through the boat's glass bottom. You'll see traces of the legendary city of Aenaria, with the formwork structure and other remains of the port, as well as the city walls and various artifacts lying on the seabed. You can also observe the underwater fields of Posidonia oceanica (Neptune grass) and the lively marine life that flourishes underneath the island's sea.

This is a truly unique and exclusive way to learn about the ancient history of Ischia, in the company of passionate local guides and far from tourist crowds.

Boat Tours on Ischia