The vessel, which contains hundreds of valuable amphorae -- earthenware vessels traditionally used to transport wine -- was spotted by police divers roughly one mile from the shore of Alassio in 160 feet of water, Italy's ANSA news agency reported Friday.
Police said they have been tipped off to the whereabouts of the ship during a year-long investigation into stolen archaeological artifacts sold on the black market in northern Italy.
"This is an exceptional find," Colonel Francesco Schilardi, who led the police dive team, said. "Now our goal is to preserve the ship and keep thieves out. We are executing surveys and excavations to study the contents of the boat which is perfectly intact."
Encased in layers of mud, the find promises to yield clues to Rome's trade activity between the Italian peninsula and other areas in the Mediterranean, experts said.
The ship is thought to have travelled on trade routes between Spain and what is now central Italy and was loaded with more than 200 clay amphorae likely to have contained fish, wine, oil and grain.