(by Silvia Lambertucci)
Looking out from the edge of the sacred bath, where the
archaeologists found the wonderful bronzes, to listen to its
continual bubbling; discovering the traces of the Etruscan
shrine that the Romans turned into a monumental temple;
rediscovering a landscape taken back in time to then immerse
oneself in the warmth of that same water, today like 2,000 years
It will take another three or four years and an investment of at least 5-6 million euro, ANSA learns from the archaeology director-general of the culture ministry Luigi La Rocca, but then it will really be a unique experience, the one offered by the archaeological park that will be created at San Casciano dei Bagni, the Tuscan hamlet where 24 extraordinary statues now on show at the presidential Quirinal Palace were brought back to light in the autumn of 2022.
In the rooms at the San Michele building in Rome, headquarters of the archaeological and museum departments of the culture ministry, the project is taking shape in these very weeks, with two offices working in tandem. The idea is this: "to quickly go forward with the archaeological research and at the same time set up an exhibition able to offer visitors a full-blown bath in history".
Certainly, there is a lot to be done because the land around the current excavation still has to be bought and complex static problems have to be resolved together with others linked to the flow of water in order to enable the archaeologists to bring out of the earth the posterior part, which is still buried, of the sacred bath. And at the same time the search will have to be broadened to the remains of the complex in which the Roman shrine was inserted, from the bathing pools for the public to the houses of the priests and as far as the 'hospital' rooms, those where the patients who had arrived from all over were examined, treated and in some cases even operated on.
Hence the idea of a Grand Project.
"It's the right instrument because in light of the exceptional results of the first excavation campaigns, San Casciano has become a priority and it is worth making a change of pace, with the ministry flanking the town council and Siena's university for foreigners also in the digs," underlines the DG. That means "deploying even greater human and financial resources, more work teams and more money, to reach results in a reasonable time frame." Precise accounting still has to be done, "but I think we'll need no less than 5-6 million euros and 3-4 years of work," hypothesises the DG, "and I'm convinced that the ministry won't fail to make its own contribution." All this will happen while progress is made on the museum that will be set up in the town, in the 16th-century palazzo that the culture ministry has just bought.
"We are at work with our internal technicians who will deal both with the restoration project and the display one," clarifies the museum DG Massimo Osanna, assuring that with respect to the Park, the wait will be shorter: "one year from the opening of the work site".
During this time, Osanna goes on to assure us, the first account of the Great Bath with its treasure trove of stories, coins and bronzes will continue to be open to the public, moving from the Quirinal to the national archaeological museum in Naples.
After which, to manage a patrimony that since the first moment has been the fruit of collective work, there will be thoughts of a foundation in which the ministry, the region and the local council would be flanked by a private partner, along the lines of the Egyptian Museum in Turin or the MAXXI in Rome.
Agnese Carletti, the young and feisty mayor of San Casciano, is enthusiastic: "Our community is growing in its awareness of he value of the civic archaeology project that we imagined four years ago. The support of the culture ministry is essential for the realisation of our dream".
La Rocca smiles: "We imagine a museum and a park closely linked to create a unique trip back in time. A journey that for the park will have its focus on the structures, of course, but which will then have to transmit emotions, also at a sensory level." This is why palaeo-botanists and landscape architects, he reveals, are already working on the challenge of recreating what must have been the atmospheres of the ancient world.
And then there are the structures around the Medici baths, which over the coming months must be dismantled in order to safely bring to completion the next phase of the excavations. But they will soon return to their original place, as always at everyone's disposal, creating a truly breathtaking panorama.
"We'll have water above us, water below, with an extraordinary scenario," assures La Rocca.
"It will really be like taking a bath in history".
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