Museum of the Roman shipwreck
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piazza della Stazione, 1 - 18010 Santo Stefano al Mare (IM)
Telefono: 0184 48 64 88
Fax: 0184 48 68 20

Santo Stefano al Mare, lying between long sandy beaches, jagged coasts and the hills rich in floral cultivations, is in the centre of Imperia province, overlooking the sea in one of the most famous Italian and Ligurian tourist areas.  

This characteristic Ligurian village is one the stopping places along the western cycle path with more than twenty kilometres of road for pedestrians and cyclists along the stretch of old railway, moved upstream at the beginning of the 21st century.  It is a unique route on one of the longest tracks of the Mediterranean, between Ospedaletti and San Lorenzo al Mare.

It is an easy and level trail, which crosses small villages and skirts the typical shores of the Mediterranean Sea in charming stretches, once inaccessible because of the railway.  Beaches and reefs can be entered easily from the track that is often close to the sea.  

A sunken Roman ship with about a dozen terracotta amphoras was found on the seabed in front of Santo Stefano, known as Porciana in Roman times; it is precious evidence of the age of the settlement.

Thanks to the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of the ROP ERDF 2007-2013) the intention is to create a tourist development and archaeological improvement project for this wreck by installing cameras that constantly film the boat and the pieces of an interactive museum with reconstruction and projection of these images from the sea floor. 

A little bit of history

The Santo Stefano wreck is one of the most important pieces of direct evidence related to maritime trade which affected the Ligurian coasts during the Roma era.

On the seabed in front of the village, two and half miles from the coast and at a depth of about 58 metres, there is a deposit of Roman amphorae, mostly intact, dating back to the 1st century BC.

Research carried out until today, which was restricted to a superficial survey and the recovery of an amphora sample, have not made it possible to define the exact extension of the archaeological site (estimated to be about 15-20 metres long and 5-8 metres wide, and with a surface area of about 150 square metres), the number of the amphorae carried and the possible presence of wooden elements from the hull of the old craft.
A considerable number of intact amphorae and the good state of preservation, it is probable that the archaeological deposit also spreads out below the top layer of seabed.

It is presumed to be the goods carried by a Roman cargo ship that sunk during a trading journey along the Ligurian coast.

The intervention

The project proposes using an already existing multi-use room near the ex railway station as an interactive museum. At the same time the intention is to make the wreck of the Roman ship available, and also to protect it, by setting up an underwater video surveillance system that will transmit live images from the bottom of the sea. The images will be transmitted in an avant-garde museum and scenographic context, which will guarantee the innovative use of interaction between the public and the historical and archaeological heritage.

Firstly, setting up an underwater video surveillance system will guarantee that the wreck is protected correctly, in addition to permitting its study using innovative and non-invasive methods.
After the study phase, an underwater video surveillance system will be installed, connected to a transmission system on a floating buoy. Everything will be powered by a solar panel system.

The images will be sent live to the museum, which will be set up and completed. A multimedia, sensory exhibition space will be set up, with a life-size reconstruction of the wreck. The possibility of constantly seeing images of the wreck and taking a virtual tour on the seabed is programmed, thanks to a setting that will reproduce the characteristic sounds, lights and colour of the underwater world.

Theatrical setting technologies will be used, with semi-transparent sheets-screens, lighting and sound management systems, in addition to video clips and projections.

Finally, at the end of the visit, visitors will find themselves inside an environment that simulates the inside of a submarine. In this space the public can use a periscope to see the small signalling buoy positioned near the wreck.

Nearby

The Riviera dei Fiori has many attractions: from Imperia to Sanremo, from its beaches to its hinterland valleys. Dolceacqua is on the first spurs of the Maritime Alps, just a short distance from the French border. A small Medieval village, it culminates in Doria Castle that can be reached by going through the narrow alleys that are perched on the slope. Claude Monet, who visited it in 1884, was so impressed by the delicate medieval bridge crossing the Nervia that he dedicated one of his paintings to it.

The flavours of this borderland, rough and hard, must not be forgotten: Rossese of Dolceacqua, a light red wine with a unique taste, is produced in these valleys using a local variety of grape.
One of the typical products, not only of Dolceacqua but of the entire area, is the oil extracted from “taggiasche" olives (the name derives from the city of Taggia), which are black and tasty, characteristic of the Western Liguria.

Oddities

In the nearby hinterland of Santo Stefano al Mare, not far from Dolceacqua but higher in the Alps, is the hamlet of Triora, whose municipal territory borders with France.

A curious thing about Triora, which is positioned on a rocky ridge in Valle Argentina, a mountainous, cloudy place in autumn that is surrounded by a mysterious atmosphere, is its history of witch trials and burnings.
In a fatal biennium, from 1587 to 1589, some local women were accused of causing pestilence, acid rain, the death of livestock and even of eating babies. The documents of the trials and the reports of the interrogations are kept in the Archivio di Stato di Genova (Genoa State Archives). These sentences for alleged witchcraft caused several young girls and also a boy to be burnt to death.

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