I love sinking down into the blue abyss and looking up at the massive amount of water between me and the surface. There is no feeling like the one of having 130 feet of water pressure crushing down on you. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m in a completely different world!”
The image that comes to mind when most people think of scuba diving is a bustling coral reef filled with a kaleidoscope of fish, but there is more to diving than that.
Plunging down 40 meters (130 feet) into Italy’s Y-40, the world’s deepest pool is an experience of a lifetime. Here you don’t go diving for the marine life (the only species you’ll see in this pool are Homo sapiens) you go diving for the sheer bragging rights of having reached the bottom of the deepest pool on the planet!
Get out your bucket list scuba friends; this indoor pool is a must-try during your travels to Europe’s boot-shaped country.
Just one glimpse at the size and depth makes it hard to call the Y-40 Deep Joy merely a pool. Since 2014, Italy’s Y-40 has been christened the world’s deepest pool by the Guinness Book of World Records. Located about an hour away from the romantic city of Venice, the seemingly bottomless pool was constructed by the talented architect Emanuele Boaretto.
The pool first opened on June 5th, 2014 and comprised a series of multilevel training platforms and artificial caves all funneling down to the deep dark cylindrical tank dropping down to just over 40 meters (130 feet).
The pool itself is filled with 4.3 million liters (1.1 million gallons) of thermal freshwater heated from local springs of the Padua region. Because the water is geothermally heated, scuba and freedivers can enjoy the pool in nothing but a swimsuit.
For those curious cats like me, the interesting pool name “Y-40” can be broken down to represent;
One would expect nothing less from a world record holding facility than to attract some of the most elite athletes in the world.
The Y-40 pool breeds diving legends, including decorated freediving and spearfishing champions such as; Guillaume Néry, Pierre Frolla, Alessia Zecchini, Umberto Pelizzari, Herbert Nitsch, Andrea Zuccari, Ilaria Molinari, Ilaria Bonin, Marco Mardollo (one of the Apnea Academy’s founders), Cico Nat and Marco Bardi.
Not only do freedivers make their way to the Deep Joy pool for courses and training, but so do top-rated instructors and scuba diving personnel. Most notably super instructor Alberto Calesella, one of PADI’s Platinum level course directors. He even certified us after the dive!
For those who are aquaphobic but still want to immerse themselves in the underwater world, the Y-40 Deep Joy has multiple windows looking into the pool and a viewing tunnel where guests can stroll through and check out the happenings beneath the surface. Come and watch the playful scuba divers blowing bubbles underwater or marvel as a freediver plummets to unthinkable depths on a single breath. There is always an underwater flurry of activity taking place at the Y-40.
Taking on the world’s deepest pool is a bucket list item for many divers!
For Joey and me that dream became a reality in late August. We arrived at the thermally heated pool in the morning, pumped and ready to hit the water. On our way to the changing rooms, we walked through a demi glass tunnel where we could watch divers swimming about.
As a cold water diver, it was strange to prepare for a dive where you don’t need to sport heavy and compelling equipment. No wetsuit, gloves, hood, boots and even to my surprise and delight no weight belts. With so little on, I was continually checking to make sure I had everything for our big dive to 40 meters. I felt so free it made me want to do a triple underwater backflip.
My equipment assembled and toes dangling gingerly at the edge of the Y-40 pool I watched as some iron-lunged freedivers broke the surface after a deep descent.
I knew that the pool water was going to be warm thanks to some geothermal heating but boy oh boy was I surprised when I put my feet beneath the glassy surface of the water. At a balmy 34 degree Celsius, it seemed like I would be diving in chicken noodle soup!
As the last freediver exited the water it was our turn; it was finally time to take on the Y-40. We fluidly swam down from training platform to training platform, each staggered at different depths. As we made our way down, I practiced that ever elusive neutral buoyancy perfection.
We reached the last training platform at nine meters before the pool funneled into a deep dark cylindrical tank. The feeling of excitement as I crept up to the side and peered over the ledge towards the bottom was indescribable. It was soooooo far away.
Without hesitation, Joey and I plunged over the edge and carefully descended into the Y-40’s abyss. As we free fell into the Deep Joy’s cylindrical tank, it felt like I was on a never-ending elevator.
I descended and watched the depth numbers marked on the wall getting bigger. 15 meters, 25 meters, 30 meters… It was entrancing and almost hypnotic.
Through my ears, I heard nothing. The peacefulness of diving in a pool was unusual for me. I am so used to diving in lakes, oceans, and aquariums filled with ambient background noise. The silence of the cylinder made it, so I could hear the fizzy pop of my ears as I equalized every few meters. The sensation was eerie.
At the 31 meter mark, Joey and I were a little on edge. It is around this depth that I sometimes begin to feel nitrogen narcosis.
Nitrogen narcosis or getting “narced” as divers like to call it, is a condition that occurs to a scuba diver at depth. It is related to breathing compressed air under pressure. The signs and symptoms of nitrogen narcosis present themselves through slow reflexes and impaired judgment. In a nutshell, the diver appears drunk.
Some divers can feel nitrogen narcosis at as little as 27 meters while others may not feel it until 45 meters. The condition is entirely variable from one diver to another. I was pretty thankful that I didn’t feel any symptoms of nitrogen narcosis on this dive (likely because I was very well hydrated and had a good night’s sleep). I would have been devastated not to make it down to the bottom of the pool.
Joey and I touched down on the smooth tiled floor of the Y-40 Deep Joy about 15 minutes into our dive. You know how excited kids get on Christmas day? That about sums up the way we felt as we made the landing. We displayed our excitement through a series of poorly executed dance moves and an underwater smooch!
Eight minutes was all the time we could afford to spend on the bottom of the world’s deepest pool. Those minutes went by in the blink of an eye. Once the time was up, we began a slow and controlled ascent to the shallower platforms.
On our way to the surface I watched as a free diver came whizzing by me on his way to the bottom. He was wearing a monofin and looked ever so graceful. It was incredible to watch someone make it down so deep on a single breath.
Between five and seven meters Joey and I did a mandatory safety stop. This stop allowed our bodies to release some of the gases that had accumulated in our bloodstream while we had been under pressure.
During our safety stop we enjoyed some of the Y-40’s shallower play areas. An intricate artificial cave system is built into one corner of the pool. I weaved in and out of the cave openings trying to keep my tank from bumping on the side. Some of the openings were so small I had to wiggle my way through (thank goodness I’m not claustrophobic!).
After our time spent at depth, we surfaced. As we floated around, one of the pool staff brought out a nifty toy called the seabob. Think of the bright yellow seabob as an underwater scooter. With six different speed settings, this marine mobile is the ultimate way to get around. Having all our scuba gear, we only motored around on the first setting, and already I could feel myself flying through the water. I can’t even imagine taking that thing out into the open ocean and racing around full throttle.
In total, we spent about an hour under the waters of the deepest pool in the world. As if the dive wasn’t enough, as we finished up our visit at the Y-40 pool, Joey and I had the honor of meeting the pool’s architect and owner Emanuele Boaretto. I couldn’t believe our luck. It was icing on top of our scuba cake!
If you are one of those people who always heads for the deep end, checking out the Y-40 Deep Joy is without question the treat of a lifetime. Divers get excited to cross this record breaking pool off your scuba diving bucket list!
Cost: The cost for diving in the Y-40 Deep Joy pool can be broken down into three categories; scuba diving, freediving, and courses.
Seasonality: The deepest pool in the world is open pretty much all year round closing down only for a short period at the beginning of the summer for regular maintenance. Make sure to book in advance if you are looking to stop by during the winter months; the pool is a pretty hot commodity among the diving community. Whenever you are looking to get wet, make sure you check the website schedule for the respective scuba and freediving times.
Restrictions: Before visiting the pool, make sure to familiarize yourself with some of the safety restrictions of this facility:
While on vacation in Italy would you ever try your hand at scuba diving or free diving in the Y-40 pool or would you stick to the Mediterranean sea?
Writers Note: A huge thank you to all the people that made this bucket list dive possible including; the amazing crew at the Y-40 pool and the Travel Channel. A special thanks to Stefano Borghi, Marco Mancini and Aaron Schwartz for the incredible pictures featured in this article, your talent enable non-divers to appreciate the underwater world! And to Iris Rocca the press manager at the Y-40; I am so grateful for your help in the writing of this article. You have been a tremendous resource and a good friend.
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