Frozen in time at the Costa Concordia's crippled starboard side, a couple of rusty lounge chairs are tidily lined up on the balcony, as if waiting for guests to enjoy some sunshine.
Despite the collision on the rocks of Giglio on January 13, the capsizing of the ship, 20 months underwater and undergoing a 65-degree rotation, the lounge chairs, an aluminum chair and some green lamps amazingly stand in their original positions.
Seen from a distance, the cruise liner appears like a surreal half-white, half-brown ship rising from the pristine blue waters of Giglio.
Clearly visible on the 950-foot-long dark side of the ship are large, caved in marks left by the two spurs of rock where the ship has rested since it capsized.
Decks that once house luxury cabins are now compressed and flattened, with streams of rust. Ripped curtains hang from twisted windows, forming disquieting silhouettes as they wave in the wind.
Crumpled metal and grime dominate the once glorious cruise liner, while piles of chairs form a twisted mass of rusty metal.
Doors on the buckled lower decks slowly open and close as water flows through them.
Ironically, there is no lack of lights on the dark side of the Concordia. Neatly aligned, neon-like lamps are still on the walkways of the decks. Disco lights still hang from the upper deck.
The wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner could be refloated and moved from the Tuscan island of Giglio by the end of July, according to the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
Assuming seas are calm, the delicate refloating operations of the stricken ship will begin on July 20.
The wreck will be then towed to the port of Genoa for dismantling and recycling.
The decision ends a battle among more than 10 ports and business consortiums from six countries, including Turkey and China.
“The official announcement will be given within two weeks, but the decision has been already taken during a meeting at Costa Cruises’s headquarters in Genoa on Wednesday,” Il Sole 24 reported.
About two-and-a-half times the size of the Titanic, the Concordia struck a rock off Giglio Island and capsized on Jan. 13, 2012, after captain Francesco Schettino, on trial for manslaughter, allegedly drove it on an unauthorized route too close to shore, ripping a huge gash in the hull.
The ship claimed 32 lives two years ago as it tumbled onto its side with more than 4,200 people aboard. Among the victims, Indian waiter Russel Rebello is still missing.
On Sept. 17, 2013, the wreck was rotated upright during one of the largest, most expensive and most daunting salvage operations in history.
The ship now rests on an artificial seabed and is still partially under water.
Work is ongoing to affix 19 watertight boxes onto the sides of the ship — 15 on the starboard side and 4 four on the port side — to reach a total of 30 needed for the refloating operation.
Work was delayed earlier this month when one of the tanks, or sponsons, fell off, causing a steel pontoon to tilt. But Titan-Micoperi, the consortium overseeing the operation, estimates the project is now 86.3 percent finished.
Once fixed on both sides of the ship, the tanks will be emptied of water and filled with air, providing buoyancy to raise the 114,500-ton ship off the platform where it stands now.
Sandwiched between the caissons, the Costa Concordia will be towed to Genoa for her last five-day cruise — a 170-mile journey at a speed of 1.5 knots.
Consisting of oil service company Saipem and Genoa-based companies Mariotti and San Giorgio, the consortium chosen by Costa Cruises plans to spend 100 million euros to scrap the 950 feet long and 115 feet wide liner.
The Concordia wreck will first stop in Genoa’s Voltri terminal, which has the necessary depth for the ship’s 60-foot draft. There, it will be cleaned of all the internal structures, including what remains of furnishings.
Considerably lightened, the ship then will be moved to another terminal, where ships are usually repaired. The ship’s bridges will be cut and removed in order to reduce the draft to 32 feet.
Another brief sail will bring the Concordia to her final scrapeyard in another part of the port.
During these operations, the ship probably will be hidden away from the sights of tourists boarding from Genoa on other Costa Cruises ships.
Image: The wreck of the Costa Concordia in Giglio Island. Credit: Rossella Lorenzi