Date:

The new life of Siacci fort and its community

At the end of the 19th century, the newly established Kingdom of Italy looked to secure its borders, with a focus on its maritime defences through the construction of a system of fortified structures.

Within the area of the Strait of Messina in southern Italy, a permanent system of coastal batteries was built by the Military Engineering Corps and completed in 1890. This included 21 fortresses – 13 in the Sicilian coast and 8 in the Calabrian coast, all of which were strategically positioned at different altitudes above sea level.

Technically speaking, the fortified complexes are embankment buildings with a polygonal plan, designed with a limited vertical extension in order to prevent being targeted by attacking naval fleets. Ballistic studies were used to define their dimensions as well as their position in the landscape, which meant a greater degree of security and an elevated position to fire from.

It is clear that the working principle of these structures was to be well hidden, and at the same time to control the surrounding sea. However, technological advances such as the invention of the airplane made these buildings virtually obsolete from the outset.

- Advertisement -

Subsequently, these fortifications were neither used during the Great War or during the outbreak of the Second World War. They did, however, serve as military bases for exercises and as ammunition depots before being decommissioned. This, along with military restrictions imposed by the Italian Ministry of Defence made most of the sites inaccessible, resulting in their neglect and poor state of preservation.

One example of this is the Siacci fort, which is among the most important of the Calabrian fortified structures along with two smaller fortifications of the same period in Matiniti, part of the Municipality of Campo Calabro. The fort was decommissioned in 1984, and has since become an inaccessible ruin that the Campo Calabro community has petitioned to manage.

The community has strong emotional ties to the fort, with some of the older generation having worked there and passing on oral accounts of life within Siacci to their descendants. This emotional link was further demonstrated during the preliminary restoration and reopening of the fort, when the community volunteered their time to help preserve the monument and surrounding area.

inauguration
Image Credit : Barbara Morda

The official opening was inaugurated in August 2019, with the fort becoming a tourist attraction and hosting cultural events. Campo Calabro is a small community and has never seen real economic progress even with the development of an industrial centre, resulting in some members of the community migrating for job opportunities elsewhere.

In this complex social scenario, the re-opening of the fort instigated the discussion of a wide strategic enhancement plan that would help develop this community in terms of culture, economy, job opportunities and, obviously, tourism.

A plan has been devised to regenerate the area, with the creation of a targeted multidisciplinary approach aimed at the preservation of coastal batteries scattered through both the Calabrian and the Sicilian coasts.

This will bring together multiple communities and stakeholders to cooperate to sustainably develop the Strait of Messina and demonstrate that cultural heritage can contribute to a social growth of small communities.

Written by Barbara Morda

Dr Barbara Mordà is an Italian archaeologist, currently vice president of Centro Studi MEDFORT, a non-profit organisation in Italy that aims to preserve and enhance military heritage in the Mediterranean.

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Study uses satellite imagery to identify over 1,000 Andean hillforts

A new study, published in the journal Antiquity, uses satellite imagery to survey hillforts known as pukaras in the Andean highlands.

Roman defensive spikes unveiled at the Leibniz Centre for Archaeology

In 2023, archaeologists from Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main uncovered a series of wooden defensive spikes during excavations of a 1st century AD Roman fort in Bad Ems, western Germany.

Obsidian blade linked to Coronado’s expedition to find the fabled city of gold

Archaeologists suggest that a flaked-stone obsidian blade could be linked to the expedition led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to search for the fabled city of gold.

Clay seal stamp from First Temple period found in Jerusalem

Archaeologists have discovered a clay seal stamp from the First Temple period during excavations in the Western Wall Plaza, Jerusalem.

Offering of human sacrifices found at Pozo de Ibarra

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have uncovered an offering of human sacrifices at the Mexican town of Pozo de Ibarra.

Excavation uncovers preserved wooden cellar from Roman period

Archaeologists from the Frankfurt Archaeological Museum have uncovered a well-preserved wooden celler in Frankfurt, Germany.

Preserved temples from the Badami Chalukya era found in India

Archaeologists from the Public Research Institute of History, Archaeology, and Heritage (PRIHAH) have announced the discovery of two temples dating from the Badami Chalukya era.

Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.