Canosa is a very ancient city, a Daunian city since the 7th century B.C., rich and powerful enough to be allied with Rome and to become, for Rome, a very important strategic junction, a city to come to terms with, and later, a Federician city, rearguard of the Salines and advance post of the Empire . . . The land under Canosa is like a sponge, a storehouse of valuable traces of its history which it has, over time, absorbed and then revealed, little by little, continuing up to the present. The “archaeological history,” the below-ground history of Canosa, has become the official one: interrupted, in a way frozen, since the end of the Roman Empire. As if, after that sequence of rich centuries, being so far ahead of the history of the other cities of the territory, Canosa no longer existed historically, except as a projected image of its glorious past. But, it is exactly this peculiarity that makes for the indisputable charm of this place: the fact that it is a sort of museum, not enclosed in rooms, but made of continual sudden and unexpected discoveries, as if the importance of the past, from time to time, even today, exacted a toll on modernity.
To enter into the heart of the matter, it is helpful to remember that the attention to archaeology, and even the very concept of an archaeological dig, goes back to the culture of the 1800's. So, from the Middle Ages to the 1800's Canosa shared the history of the cities around it: a feudal history, based on a rural economy, ignorant of its past splendours. From the large and noble manufacturing, commercial and artistic centre that it had been in antiquity, feudal Canosa became agricultural and the productive area was created: immense, expansive, non-urban, in clear contrast to the idea of “centre” of the ancient residential nucleus. Starting in the Middle Ages and for all of the modern age, farmers have continued to return in the evening to the city, place of rest and family connections, after a day spent working “in the countryside.” They have tried to give a new identity and a new meaning to the modern city and its uninterrupted evolution. Out of this second history, medieval and modern, has come the dichotomy between ancient history and the current image of the city, and the idea of the find as an “undesirable guest,” an apt definition that has also been used as the title of an exhibit that tried to weigh the effect of archaeology on contemporary collective feeling. At each construction site for a new building, the earth “releases” treasures hidden until that moment: the discovery of the marvelous Tomb of Jewels, for example, dates back to just 1991. Canosa is not a permanent archaeological dig, and yet there are continual discoveries, and the city (by now “safeguarded,” if that term can be used, by the Superintendency of the Archaeologic Works and Universities) must welcome these riches, face them, and recognise itself continuously in this mirror. Canosa is not Pompei and it is not Paestum, it is like Rome: a modern-day city in continual evolution, grafted onto a treasure chest, to which the 19th century aesthetic of the “ruin” did more harm than good – fortunately substituted today by a stratified city, to be observed, as it were, “in sections.” This is why a visit to Canosa is a spiritual experience, more than a simple itinerary among monuments: a decisive experience for the sensibility of modern men, who no longer have the repertorial and catalogued cultural knowledge of the 1800's, nor its romantic approach, but a living sense of history and an awareness of the continual weaving of power with peoples, of art with production, of conservation with evolution and of all of this with the current shape and perspectives of a city.
Only by observing Canosa in this way, and enjoying the splendid monuments that it o