Friday, August 3, 2012

Alternative tourism: from hikers and bikers to archeologists and art historians

watercolor by Alice Lejeune

Tourism statistics are nothing more than a dry collection of numbers. Living here and writing about this area gives me the privilege of meeting the real people behind these numbers: a collection of very interesting individuals.  
Archeologist Stephanie exaimes a plaque in Vetralla's city hall 

All of the people met over the past few months had a special, personal reason for coming  to this lesser known area of central Italy. Each had a special itinerary to follow  which ranged from literature, sport and history to archeology, music and dance. 

From the island of Crete, artist Tim spent a week walking in the footsteps of D.H. Lawrence, using  only public transport  and participating in the life of our circle of friends. 

lunch on the terrace with Teresa 
Teresa, from New Mexico, comes annually as she organizes workshops for writers and aspiring writers. Art historians and museum curators are other visitors who are always welcome.

Museum curators Annawies and John visited  from Boston

Author Mark  meets local actor, Christian
Marged (r.) joins local residents for  Wedding of the Trees festival
Marged and Mark both came to Viterbo to study Italian and cooking and stayed on for local festivities.

Jim, bandaged after a fall in London, 
Jim,  an eco builder from Scotland, arrived at night last week, weighed down by a huge backpack.  
He was following in the footsteps of his father, once  a POW  in Vetralla's Camp  68. Jim read about the camp  here and decided to come see for himself. 
Meeting the locals near the POW camp 

Checco Lallo's  pottery cave has not changed over the years 
We showed Jim a place that hadn't changed since his father was a prisoner here in 1943. 
This group of international lawyers who came in May,even  got a chance to try their hands  at the potter's wheel .
Trying out local crafts 

POW barracks in the background 
Jim meets Ivo who was a prisoner of the Germans

At least once a week a group of pilgrims on foot or cyclists  passes through town, stopping in the main  piazza for a break during their long ride from Siena or Viterbo to Rome.

Bikers from all parts of Italy (and Brazil)   take a break in the piazza
German scholars  and American trekkers often  stop  at our  local bookshop looking for maps of  ancient  Roman roads and books about the area
Last week a troupe of young Russian ballet dancers arrived  in Viterbo to present  Swan Lake during the Tuscia Opera Festival. They didn't see much of the city but gifted us with a magical evening. 
dancers applying makeup  in the piazza
The 13th century  Papal Palace was the backdrop for Tchiakovsky's  enchanting music and ballet. 
Ballet dancers from St. Petersburg, Russia 

warming up for  Swan Lake in Viterbo

 Another  international group, this time French archeologists, stayed for an entire month  as they uncovered an Etruscan tomb complex hidden in the woods near Tuscania. 

walking to the newly discovered tombs
Vincent  Jolivet  from CNRS, Paris leads  the group 

Edwige Lovergne  explains her discovery 
tools for the archeological dig

We anxiously await the published report on the French archeological team's discoveries. 

a sneak preview of the tomb complex

 Individual travelers like Tim and Jim who like to rough it, prove that you can get around  our area (with difficulty) using public transport, but it makes sense  to rent a car if two or more persons are traveling together.


  1. can you help direct me to more general inforamtion about this article? are all these events centered in Viterbo? Or offered by a particular company? I just discovered your site and am trying to understand this post

  2. Dear Lee, thanks for the comment...all the events, tours, visitors are just a sampling of those who visit this area in central Italy. Check my 12 yr. old award winning website for more specific info and if you (like those featured in the story) need help I would be happy to help.

  3. Ces archéologues français sont vraiment fantastiques !
    But, dear Mary Jane, the watercolor is not the work of Edwige Lovergne (she's a top archaeologist, but not at all an artist !), but of Alice Lejeune, an architect who has been working with us in Musarna for many years.
    Compliments pour le site !

  4. Dear Vincent, thanks for the comment and correction, which I will make as soon as possible. The watercolor is lovely and evocative, MJ

  5. Dear Mary Jane
    Reading your three posts so far for your Team Florens candidature, what comes to mind is the very local outlook and the commitment you make in Vetralla. This post is particularly nice because indeed, the faces behind the statistics ARE very interesting.

    To be a complete case study that might suggest a model for other towns, I think the Foundation might be interested in reading something that gives a larger overall picture. So if you have those boring statistics, can you pull them out for us? What is the population of Vetralla, the number of tourists, the number of families or people who can be affected by tourism and in what ways, the number of hotels or beds to stay for those tourists, the current and potential economy generated by this niche tourism... Something like this might be followed by a concise account of what has been done and what should be done to encourage this, not only on your part but on the part of local government, and how the rapport has been with those important interlocutors.

  6. Tim from Crete just sent me a beautiful review which you can read here
    Thanks Tim, I wrote Etruria-Travel,history and itineraries in Central Italy, especially for independent travelers like you.