Mediterranean Conference on Underwater Archaeological Tourism and International “Sebastiano Tusa” Underwater Archaeology Award

  • 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 Phlegraean 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 International “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.


    In 2021 the Award has been assigned to:

    for the archaeological discovery of the year or lifetime achievement
    Xavier Nieto Prieto Vice President of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of the 2001 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage

    For his work of research, protection, and university teaching, promoted over a life spent with competence and passion in the field of underwater archeology. Since 1976 he has participated in underwater archaeological missions in Spain, Italy, France, Morocco, Haiti, Panama. Member and then Vice President of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body of the 2001 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, Director of the Center for Underwater Archeology of Catalonia, Director of the National Museum of Underwater Archeology (ARQUÀ), Xavier Nieto Prieto is one of the world’s leading figures for naval and underwater archeology for his research, discoveries, studies, publications, for his constant institutional commitment to the affirmation of underwater archeology as a university discipline, as a specific asset to be protected and enhanced both underwater and in dedicated museums.

    for the best exhibition of international scientific value
    Paolo Giulierini Director National Archaeological Museum of Naples

    For the design, promotion and realization of the exhibition “Thalassa. Wonders submerged by the Mediterranean Sea “December 2019-August 2020. The exhibition, born from an inspired intuition of several scholars, including Sebastiano Tusa who was its first animator and passionate supporter, courageously represented a new way of answering the question “what is the Mediterranean Sea?”. The public was able to see with new eyes an extraordinary reality made up of geological events, ecosystem dynamics, stories and myths, mermaids and heroes, travelers and explorers, transport of food products and luxury goods. The intertwining of the destinies of the Great Sea and the destinies of the coastal populations is represented by the reconstruction over time of the routes followed by the ships that sailed the Mediterranean Sea. The exhibition left an indelible mark on the history of the Museum, which will dedicate a permanent section to the Mediterranean Sea and underwater archeology.

    for the most innovative project by Institutions, Museums and Archaeological Parks
    Franco Marzatico Superintendent for Cultural Heritage Autonomous Province of Trento

    For the design and realization of the Archaeological Nature Park of Fiavé, province of Trento, where one of the most important pile dwellings of prehistoric Europe was found. For the first time, the park gives a lake area the possibility of public use of a large wet-underwater archaeological area. Made in a setting that boasts three UNESCO recognitions (prehistoric pile dwellings in the Alps, natural site of the Dolomites, Biosphere Alpi Ledrensi and Judicaria), it offers an innovative and scenographic educational and experiential path with a strong emotional impact, thanks to the reconstruction, as close as possible to the reality of excavation documentation, prehistoric pile-dwelling villages and their ingenious foundations. The dialogue between archeology and natural environment increases knowledge and cultural awareness and it promotes the attractiveness and ecosystem development of the area.

    for the best journalistic contribution in terms of divulgation
    Donatella Bianchi RAI journalist host of “Lineablu” and President WWF Italy

    For her decades of activity as journalist dedicated to spreading knowledge of the Mediterranean Sea, its environment, its culture, its populations, its history. In her tireless work she has always followed every discovery, every research campaign, every character of Mediterranean underwater archeology, anticipating with exemplary tact the real possibility of introducing an environmental and archaeological underwater tourism inspired by the knowledge, protection and conservation of the blue world that embraces Italy. From 1994 to 2020 Linea Blu is today the most important image archive of our sea.