Background to the Project

Cesenatico is located in the Emilia-Romagna province, in north-east Italy, between the key Roman and later centres of Ravenna and Rimini.

location map

Cesenatico's existing port canal was surveyed and designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The Museo della Marineria, where historic fishing boats are displayed, can be seen below. The present town is one geared much to the sea - for economy and tourism.

Cesenatico museum

Cesenatico by night

The archaeological site is located c.2km north-west of the town centre of Cesenatico. The satellite image below shows the site in the foreground (indicated by the red pin), and Cesenatico and the Adriatic sea in the background.

Sat view of site

Excavations were central on fields (ploughland) in the Ca' Bufalini property, we are grateful to the owners for access and hospitality.

Video clip showing general area around the site.

Historical Background

In the Roman period two important roads traversed this zone: the consular via Popilia, the ancient coast road, and the ‘via del Confine’, both of which helped define the system of land allotments of centuriation which still remain visible in the modern landscape of field boundaries. Roman Itineraries (including the Peutinger Table) note a mansio or road station of ad Novas on the Popilia.

Tabula Peutingeriana

The project aim is to examine and explain the Roman and late antique heritage of Cesenatico, whose environs have yielded materials from various landholdings (e.g. Ca’ Turchi, Ca’ Romagnoli) ranging from ceramics to clay figurines, tiles and some building materials. By focussing study on a key site in this area we hope to reveal the type of Roman settlement that existed, whether farm, villa, village, road station or even township. What is not known is whether this Roman site continued into early medieval times.


Cesenatico has a strong medieval history: there were two castles, with the remains of a 16th century castello fairly central to the town plan, having replaced an earlier, demolished unit (excavation in this area has revealed some residual Roman materials, which may add to the suggestion that the town overlies the noted Roman mansio.  Leonardo da Vinci helped design the harbour, which still provides the life blood to the town’s economy, drawing also on a fertile hinterland.  The link with the sea is reflected in a well-stocked Maritime Museum and the coast band north and south features a number of late and post-medieval watchtowers, designed to help protect the Cesenatico ships.


Previous excavations in the Ca’ Bufalini site

In April 2006 a short campaign of archaeological investigation was organised in the area of Ca’ Bufalini where in the 1970s was found an inhumation in amphora, and Roman and late Roman ceramics were collected from the fields. 

maching begins

In 2006 three trenches were opened, ploughsoil cuts down into part of the later Roman contexts, but enough survived to reveal partial remains of walls and thick dark earth layers with many finds. 

building plan

Wider excavation revealed part of a well preserved road built using cobblestone, as well as a brick and wood structure, probably a hut.

road revealed

The hypothesis emerged that the area featured a Roman farm or villa of the 2nd and 3rd century AD, later, probably in 5th century, after its abandonment, the building was reoccupied and a village of huts was built, although this may not have endured long.


The 2008 campaign

Funds from the comune and from the University of Leicester enabled a team to develop the excavations in 2008. Targets were to:

  • Identify the extension of the possible Roman villa and the presumed later village.
  • Define the chronology and the relationship between the road, village and villa.
  • Clarify the chronology of abandonment of the settlement.
  • Define a strategy for future study of ancient Cesenatico.


Further Reading

  • Augenti, A. et al. . 2005: L’Italia senza corti? L’insediamento rurale in Romagna tra VI e IX secolo, in Brogiolo, G.P.; Chavarria Arnau, A.; Valenti, M. (eds): Dopo la fine delle ville: le campagne dal Vi al IX secolo. 11˚ Seminario sul Tardo Antico e l’Alto Medioevo, SAP, Mantua: 17-52
  • Barker, G. & Lloyd, J. (eds) 1991:  Roman Landscapes. Archaeological Survey in the Mediterranean Region.  BSR: London.  (includes papers on Italy and the Bologna and Piacenza regions)
  • Christie, N. 2006: From Constantine to Charlemagne: An Archaeology of Italy, AD 300-800. Ashgate: Aldershot.
  • Dyson, S. 2003: The Roman Countryside. Duckworth: London.
  • Farfaneti, B. 2000: Cesenatico Romana. Archeologia e territorio. Edizioni del Girasole: Ravenna.
  • Francovich, R. & Hodges, R. 2003:  Villa to Village. The Transformation of the Roman Countryside in Italy, c. 400-1000. Duckworth: London.
  • Gelichi, S. et al.. 2005: La transizione dall’Antichtà al Medioevo nel territorio dellantica Regio VIII, in Brogiolo, G.P.; Chavarria Arnau, A.; Valenti, M. (eds): Dopo la fine delle ville, Mantua: 53-80.
  • Potter, T.W. 1988:  Roman Italy. British Museum Press: London.


Results from the 2008 excavation



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