During the 2019 edition we believed it fitting to posthumously assign the “Paestum Archaeology Award” to prof. dr. Sebastiano Tusa, to honour the memory of the great archaeologist, of the friend of the Exchange, but mostly of the man of Southern Italy, who lived his life at the service of the institution to contribute to the local development and the preservation of Mare Nostrum.

In those same days of November 2019, we asked his wife dr. Valeria Li Vigni, who accepted the Award, to include each year in the program of the Exchange an international initiative, presided by herself, to remember the commitment and the projects of Sebastiano Tusa.

Therefore, the “Mediterranean Conference on Underwater Archaeological Tourism” and the International “Sebastiano Tusa” Underwater Archaeology Award will take place annually during the Exchange.

During the First Conference, in 2021, was presented the request for the certification of a network of underwater sites in the Cultural Routes programme, launched in 1987 by the Council of Europe. Cultural Routes, putting into practice the values of the Council of Europe – “human rights, cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and exchanges” – are an invitation to travel and discover the rich and diverse European cultural heritage, that aims to create a network of people and places with a shared history and heritage.

The “Cultural Route of underwater sites of the Mediterranean Sea” (a network that will connect Campania, Calabria, Apulia, Sicily, Egypt, Greece, Israel and Turkey through the sites of Baia Sommersa in the Archaeological Park of the Phlegrean Fields, Capo Rizzuto, Egnazia/Tremiti Islands/San Pietro in Bevagna, Egadi/Pantelleria/Plemmirio/Ustica, Alexandria, Pavlopetri/Peristera, Caesarea Maritima and Kizlan) is a key resource for responsible tourism and sustainable development, as a response to the activities and to the innovative projects requested by the Council of Europe in the framework of the five priority sectors of action, strategic for the local development and the cultural value of the territory: cooperation in terms of research and development; valorisation of the memory, history and European heritage; cultural and educational exchanges for European young people; contemporary artistic and cultural practices; cultural tourism and sustainable cultural development.

Underwater sites are the destination of a growing number of tourists. In the world there are, indeed, about 30 million certified divers and about 6 million people “dived” at least once without certification, while more than 3 million “divers” make one or more trips every year. Nowadays, travellers are looking more and more for an experiential tourism, in contact with nature and territorial identities, so an amphora, an anchor or an ancient structure underwater are essential part of the natural world, not just relics.

Therefore, underwater archaeological tourism has characteristics that make it a unique experience and that enhance some elements of the traditional tourism.

The project is developed starting from the consideration that there are still few underwater itineraries or archaeological areas that are equipped and open to the public, in Italy and internationally. To be honest, many underwater archaeological sites are destination of visits, also guided ones, of local diving clubs, but they are not preserved and, anyway, they lack signage and didactic organisation for the visit.

The request of certification of a European Cultural Route to the Council of Europe aims to underline the potentialities of underwater archaeological tourism for the local development of many destinations, even the ones that are far from the most famous localities, for the sake of preservation, authentic experiences and sustainability.

The “Sebastiano Tusa Underwater Archaeology Award” is assigned to archaeological discovery of the year, to the most innovative project by Institutions, Archaeological Parks and Museums, to the best educational journalistic contribute.