History of the escavation

The first signs of a “scientific” interest in the antiquities of the city are due to two learned physicians – Antonio Guainerio and Vincenzo Malacarne – who, come to Acqui in quite different and far apart historical periods, respectively in the first half of the 15th century and in the second half of the 18th century, in order to study the medicinal properties of the local thermal water, were so much impressed by the monumental characteristic of the archaeological remains, which still stood in the built-up area, and by the wealth of discoveries carried out, fairly frequently, under the city​​, that they made these antiquities the subject of their erudite studies and they left a written statement of them in their works.

In 1728 important archaeological discoveries were made in the built​​-up area: in that year, in fact, during the excavations carried out in order to divert the Medrio stream from the city centre, a “prodigious deal of scrap”, to use the words found in the sources of the time, came to light: scrap, unfortunately, of unspecified nature.

The main archaeological finds, of which some more detailed information has been left, however, date from the 19th century, and occurred, as often happens, during important public works, carried out in areas outside of the Roman city boundary. They particularly pertained to funerary contexts, which have always mainly drawn the attention and curiosity of the discoverers – thus often preserving them from destruction – by their very nature and for the richness of the materials brought to light. It is worth mentioning, then, the many tombs discovered in two different periods, in the east side of the city (along the route known, in Roman times, as via Aemilia Scauri, uncovered, for long stretches, on these occasions): in 1881, during the earthworks for the construction of the new hospital and, in 1896, during the works on the railway line Acqui – Ovada – Genoa. Significant archaeological findings but completely lacking any news about the context of origin – even if always sepulchral – were made in 1813 by Count Probo Blesi in his own lands located in the area of San Lazzaro, which merged later – together with the other rich finds gathered by the family – with the collection of the notary Giuseppe Ernesto Maggiora Vergano from Asti and were, finally, dispersed after the Town of Asti refused the purchase of the collection.

A similar fate befell to the collection put together, over many years of research, by the Marquis Vittorio Scati, to whom much of the historical and archaeological studies of the city of Acqui is due – including, to a large extent, just the materials found in the excavations of the tombs above mentioned – only a small part of which was gathered up, after the death of the owner, at the Museum of Antiquities in Turin. The most important discovery made ​​in the 19th century, however, is the Roman fountain with the connected structures brought to light in 1898 in the present square Piazza della Bollente, during the excavation of a long ditch for the construction of a sewage pipe: the exceptional discovery enabled to carry out a quite deep inquiry and to make graphic surveys that allow us to get a less vague idea of the complex and to propose valid theories about its reconstruction (also thanks to further research efforts made in the area ​​in 1987-88).

During the 20th century the discoveries increased, because of the numerous and significant excavation works performed ​​in many areas of the city centre. Unfortunately something has been lost or destroyed, even very seriously: it’s important to recall, among others, the state of serious neglect and decay in which the Roman pool, found in Corso Bagni in 1913, was left  for several years after its discovery, the complete loss of the funerary objects found in via Mariscotti in the 1930s, the poor conditions in which the archaeological materials, came to light during the intense building activity of the 1960s and 1970s, often without any scientific evidence, were recovered, and most importantly, the destruction of the architectural structures, which can be related to the Roman amphitheatre discovered in 1966, always in the course of construction works, in the area between Via Monteverde, Corso Bagni and via Ghione. Luckily, in addition to such cases, many important discoveries made ​​in those years can also be mentioned, which allow us today to have an overall idea, even if still incomplete, of the ancient settlement. It is worth recalling the large explored sectors of the Roman necropolis which occupied the south – eastern end of the city, the structures pertaining to private Roman buildings found in Corso Roma, via Carducci, via Gramsci and via Cassino, the remains of a large temple highlighted in via Galeazzo – Corso Cavour, the whole range of structures dug up in Piazza Conciliazione. The last few years have finally seen a succession of discoveries of great importance for the understanding of the ancient city: in fact, among other things, the remains of the Roman theatre, located on the hill overlooking Piazza della Bollente, and the remains of the forum square, in the area between Corso Cavour and Piazza Addolorata, were identified, while a whole residential block from the imperial times was brought to light in the area of via Maggiorino Ferraris.