ETRURIA Travel, History, and Itineraries in Central Italy
author: Mary Jane Cryan
publisher: Etruria Editions, 2010 isbn 978 -88-9689-09-1
Price 12,00 euros
No one writes more informatively and entertainingly about Tuscia than Mary Jane Cryan, American travel writer and local historian who has made her home in Italy for over four decades. Author of numerous historical-cultural guides and studies of this corner of Northern Lazio renowned for its unspoiled natural environment, fascinating medieval villages, baroque gardens and Etruscan archaeological sites, Cryan takes a deep map approach to her subject, exploring every inch of her home turf to offer her readers a vertical time-slice of the area’s history, legends, and culture. In her books of local lore, she revisits well-known sites and discovers new ones off the beaten track, uncovers the secret significance of forgotten temples and labyrinthine gardens, tastes her way through festivals and fairs, retraces pilgrim journeys or aristocratic itineraries to bring her readers a vivid guide to this territory and its colorful traditions. Building on the research which lay the groundwork for her previous books Affreschi – Exploring Etruria, Travels to Tuscany and Northern Lazio, Vetralla, The English Connection, in her new book Etruria Travel History and Itineraries in Central Italy, Cryan expands her geographical focus slightly to include bordering areas of Tuscany, and suggests several new itineraries not mentioned in her previous books. The chapter Treasures includes lists of castles, historic and modern gardens, nature preserves, unusual museums, all ideal sites for excursions “fuori porta” outside the gates of Rome for travelers eager to follow the road less traveled.
Cryan has a penchant for ferreting out documents relating to illustrious foreign residents and visitors in the Tuscia from previous centuries , and in this new volume she includes selections from the letters of Sophia Hawthorne, wife of Nathaniel, who describes in graphic detail the sights and odors experienced a trip through Tuscia in 1858. While impressed with the sublime landscape, the Hawthornes were taken aback by the conditions of daily life they encountered. Another intriguing chapter of the book deals with the sort of mystery many Porta Portese aficionados dream of: stumbling upon artworks of value at a flea market and tracing down their origins. Cryan tells the story of how she acquired a set of eleven unsigned eighteenth-century drawings picked up at a market stall, and how, through serendipity and sleuthing, she managed to identify the artist and discover the circumstances in which they were made.
From her princely home in Vetralla, with its writing studio and library that any writer would envy, and its terrace overlooking the fertile hills crisscrossed with roads where pilgrims, saints, soldiers, artists, and noblemen once traveled at a more leisurely pace than ours, and the fountains where they refreshed themselves, Mary Jane Cryan shows us how every inch of her adopted homeland is densely layered with stories, ghosts, ruins, fragments, begging to be remembered, to be read. Vernon Lee, British writer, friend to Henry James, once remarked that we leave a bit of ourselves in the landscapes we love, which then becomes part of the spirit of place. Surely this is true of Mary Jane Cryan, who is now as much a part of Tuscia, as Tuscia is a part of her inner landscape.