Annunziata Fort in Ventimiglia
Via Verdi, 41 - 18039 Ventimiglia (IM)
Telefono: 0184 35 11 41
Fax: 0184 35 11 41
Il forte dell'Annunziata Il forte dell'Annunziata

The origins

The first traces of human settlement in the Ventimiglia area date back to the Palaeolithic Era, something that is well testified by the famous settlement of Balzi Rossi, a complex of grottoes with signs showing the presence of man from 230,000 to 10,000 years ago, and which is one of the most important sites for studying prehistoric man, certainly not only Ligurian.

The local populations continued to live intensively in the area between the Rivers Roja and Nervia, fighting a tough battle over the centuries to survive against at least two types of invader:  the Celtic tribes (known as “Gauls”) from the North, and the Greek colonies of the northern Tyrrhenian, Marsiglia above all, from the West.

In those centuries Ventimiglia, or Albium Intemelium, was an “oppidum”, namely a city fortified by surrounding walls on the slope of the area between the two rivers.

Already at that time the city played a hinge role, because it was between different cultures and civilizations.  It is no coincidence that, even after the conquest, the Romans conferred that value to the city, defining the border of Italy there. Only later was the border moved to La Turbie.


The Romans definitively occupied the city in 180 BC, at the end of a turbulent period during which Western Liguria was an important protagonist of the second Punic war.
While Genoa, always faithfully to Rome, had to come to terms with the devastation and pillaging on its own territory by Magone from Carthage (who, according to legend, is remembered in the idiomatic expression “avere il magone” which can be translated as “to have a lump in the throat”), western Ligurian sided with Carthage.

The neighbouring Ingauni (Albium Ingauneum, namely Albenga), who were with them in the anti-Roman battle, stood out, and they did not stop even after Carthage was defeated. It was not easy to rule them - another twenty years of war were needed. Defeated by Lucio Emilio Paolo between 182and 181 BC, the western Ligurians were forced to adhere to fairly, not extremely, hard rules.
As an example, it was forbidden for them to build walls and they had to give all their triremes to Rome. This was the sign of quite good fleet-making skills.

From that moment the city, which gradually took on the shorter name of Albintimilium, slowly and tearlessly entered the “orbe romano”. Nothing traumatic and violent, if you think about what happened on exactly the opposite side of Liguria, in the Apuan Alps that saw the mass deportation of 47,000 locals and the ex-novo establishment of Luni.

The "Roman” history of the city began in this way, marked by at least four fundamental stages: becoming a municipium in 89 BC, construction of the new surrounding walls between 80 and 60 BC and above all the granting of Roman citizenship in 49 BC to all its inhabitants, something that was desired by Caesar.

Finally, in 12 BC, the Aemilia-Scauri reached Ventimiglia, a road that connected with Arles and southern Gaul to the west and a complex road system to the east which linked the main cities of the Ligurian coast with the Paduan plain and with the rest of the Roman world.

Roman Ventimiglia

The area in which the city settled over the centuries probably extended beyond the surrounding walls that can be traced today, and coincides substantially with the archaeological area in Nervia, because it is believed that even the area that coincided most with the old oppidium was inhabited.

In spite of this, the surrounding wall is nowadays hard to see, although numerous and significant traces, including the so called “Porta di Provenza” that was demolished later to clear some space for the Theatre, are still present.

It was in AD 1 that the historical and town planning turning point arrived for Ventimiglia. In fact, because of the violent civil war that broke out throughout the whole Empire in AD 69, Ventimiglia was destroyed by one of its enemies, Otho. It is an event told by sources and confirmed by archaeological data.
At the end of that terrible year Vespasiano, founder of the Flavian dynasty, named himself emperor.

From that moment onwards the city lived through a long period of peace and stability which led to the construction of all the important buildings that can be seen today: the Spas, the Theatre, for which the old Republican surrounding walls, no longer necessary thanks to the “pax Romana”, had to be demolished, and the Insulae.

Then the centuries of crisis and decay arrived, and even Ventimiglia, just like the whole western area, suffered from the damages caused by the Barbarian invasion but, unlike Albenga, which was quickly rebuilt and perfected, the Ingauno chief town gradually and slowly wore out, taking it to the threshold of the Middle Ages.

The Annunziata Fort

Positioned on the side opposite the present-day Ventimiglia in respect to the Roman city, Annunziata Fort is the monument requiring intervention from Level 4 of the ROP ERDF, in order to improve and enlarge the already rich and important “Girolamo Rossi” museum that it hosts.

The Fort was built in the 19th century following the decisions imposed by the Congress of Vienna. In short, the Austrians “obliged” Piedmont to use part of the resources obtained from French compensation to fortify that too-easy access to the Paduan plain, which turned out to be the whole of the western Alps.

One of the bastions built for this reason was Annunziata Fort, a true masterpiece of military engineering. The fort had already lost its strategic importance towards the end of the century, an importance that was definitively lost in the post-war period. After the State transferred it to the municipality of Ventimiglia, a decision was made in 1984 to use it for the Rossi museum.

The museum holds very important proof of Roman Ventimiglia, and this is why the fort and the archaeological area have been included in the same Liguria Heritage project. Visiting Annunziata Fort, and then using the “Liguria Heritage AR – Experience” application, you will be able to “rediscover” the finds in the site where they were used many centuries ago and found by modern archaeologists.

The museum is named after Girolamo Rossi, a scholar from Ventimiglia who lived between the 19th and the 20th centuries, and who was also a great protagonist of Western Ligurian archaeology.
There are six rooms of 1200 square metres, which makes this archaeological museum the most extended in Liguria. All the rooms are dedicated to this important city in the ancient Roman world.

The intervention

The conservative reclamation and restoration of the fortress, as well as its reinforcement, is part of a more complex project coordinated by the provincial government, aimed at the enhancement of western Liguria’s historic network of defences, opening it up to visitors.
As well as the Castel d’Appio fortifications and Forte San Paolo, it was in actual fact part of Ventimiglia’s defensive network, designed to strengthen the western border of the Duchy of Savoy.

The completed project led to the salvaging of the ground floor rooms, the terrace overlooking the sea of Punta Rocca and the areas below, which will be the site of an extension of the existing Archaeological Museum’s exhibition area.
Last but not least, the wiring and plumbing and all museum fixtures and fittings were completed.

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