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In search of Italy's marine areas

6 marine protected areas in Italy, special destinations to explore

A trip to Sardinia, Campania, Apulia, Calabria and Sicily to discover Italy's marine oases and nature reserves, paradises on earth that visitors can't help but fall in love with.

4 minutes

Italy's 'liquid heritage' is vast and inestimable: 228 thousand hectares of sea, 700 kilometres of coastline, 29 protected marine oases and 2 marine parks that are carefully guarded and protected. The protected coastal areas in Italy are divided into 3 zones, called Zone A, Zone B and Zone C depending on the accessibility to tourists and fishermen. 

In zone A it is not possible to carry out any activities, precisely to protect biodiversity; zone B has many restrictive protection restrictions but allows partial use of the marine environment, while in zone C it is permitted to swim and relax on the beach. In some cases, for the latter, access may only be allowed to a limited number of people, and reservations may be required. In addition to these, there are the ASPIM (Special Protected Areas of Mediterranean Interest), such as Plemmirio and Capo Carbonara.

Are you ready to find out where the marine protected areas in Italy are, when you can visit them and what to see? Here are 6 places not to be missed, to admire the biodiversity of the Bel Paese.

The Capo Carbonara Protected Marine Area

Capo Carbonara beach near Villasimius in Sardinia

The Natural Marine Protected Area of Capo Carbonara is a large protected reserve situated on the south-eastern coast of Sardinia, in the municipality of Villasimius, which can be reached in less than an hour from the centre of Cagliari. 

So, what is there to see at Capo Carbonara? This is a rich marine environment, with white beaches, crystal-clear waters and the striking Capo Carbonara lighthouse from which you can enjoy a unique view of the nearby Serpentara Island.

The beaches of Capo Carbonara are among the most beautiful in Sardinia and are now freely accessible without reservations or restricted numbers of people. To best experience the wonders of this protected area, we suggest an outing on foot or by bicycle along the many paths in the reserve.

Zone: A, B, C and ASPIM

The Baia Underwater Park

The Underwater Archaeological Park of Baia, Naples

Among the pearls of the Gulf of Pozzuoli, a few minutes from the centre of Naples, you can discover an ancient Roman city submerged by the sea. The Underwater Archaeological Park of Baia stretches between the municipalities of Bacoli and Pozzuoli and contains the remains of statues, villas and baths of the ancient city of Baia, which ended up below sea level from the 4th century onwards. 

You can discover the submerged Baia with trips on board the Cymba boat, equipped with a windowed keel, but also by canoe and submarine. The best way to view the remains of the ancient imperial buildings up close is to change into a diving suit and dive below sea level, or simply snorkel. Among the treasures are the submerged nymphaeum, the villa at Protiro and the thermal baths at Baia. 

Zones: A, B and C

The Gaiola Underwater Park

The Gaiola Island, Naples

Just a stone's throw from the heart of Naples, along the coast dominated by the hill of Posillipo, you can plunge into the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea to explore the remains of magnificent ancient Roman villas. The Underwater Archaeological Park of Gaiola winds around the small island of Gaiola and can only be accessed at certain times of the year, with touring times limited and strictly by reservation, as this is a protected area where nature is reclaiming its territory. 

If you want to treat yourself to a few hours of relaxation after exploring the underwater park by snorkelling or on board a kayak, the wonderful Gaiola beach lies at the foot of Posillipo, but even here, reservations are essential.

Zones: A, B and C

The Torre Guaceto Marine Protected Area

The Torre Guaceto Marine Protected Area

The Marine Protected Area of Torre Guaceto is a nature reserve located on the Adriatic coast of Apulia, in Carovigno, in the province of Brindisi. The reserve spans 2,200 hectares, 1,000 of which are below sea level. 

If you are pondering over what to see in Torre Guaceto, you will be spoilt for choice. There are golden sandy beaches, such as the charming Shell Beach, sheer cliffs, lush Mediterranean maquis and numerous marine and terrestrial species populating this natural paradise. These include the turtles of Torre Guaceto, but also the many fish swimming in the crystal-clear waters. If you love sailing, you can also make use of a state-of-the-art sailing centre, which can be easily reached from the car park at the entrance to the reserve.

Zones: A, B and C

The Capo Rizzuto Marine Protected Area

Aragonese castle of Capo Rizzuto in Calabria

The Capo Rizzuto Marine Protected Area has been preserved since 1991 and covers almost 15.000 hectares on the Ionian coast of Crotone, Calabria, between the Calabrian provincial capital and Isola di Capo Rizzuto

The area, the largest in Italy, is a natural paradise where marine flora and fauna flourish and tourists and visitors alike are fascinated by the red and white beaches of Capo Rizzuto, the crystal clear sea and the multitude of activities to be enjoyed. You can snorkel and dive in the sea, take boat trips or stroll among the unspoilt nature surrounding the reserve. Of the most beautiful beaches, we recommend Baia dei Gigli, Spiaggia Rossa and the serviced beach at Capo Piccolo.

Zones: A, B and C

The Plemmirio Nature Reserve

Plemmirio Nature Reserve in Sicily

The Plemmirio Nature Reserve is a protected area covering 2.000 hectares along the eastern coast of Sicily, just outside Syracuse. This natural paradise is ideal for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts, but also for those who like to walk in contact with nature along paths and views that are unique in the world, starting with the Sentiero della Maddalena (Magdalen's Path) which leads to one of the most scenic areas of the reserve.

The beaches of Plemmirio are amongst the most beautiful in Sicily, but be careful, because swimming is only allowed in zones B and C of the Plemmirio Marine Park. If you are looking for suggestions, choose the beach at Minareto di Punta Castelluccio or Cala Zaffiro.

Zones: A, B, C and ASPIM

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