What value has Contemporary Art? Can it have a function for tourism purposes? What is the relationship between art and territory?

The occasion of the Thirteenth Contemporary Day promoted by AMACI – Association of Italian Museums of Contemporary Art is the moment for reflection on the role of modern art in small historical centres and in their tourism promotion.

When a territory wants to present itself to the tourist (experiential) and to the traveller, it must complete at least three basic steps:

  1. Establish the Identity and identification of an element of its assets with which it wants to be identified
  2. Embellishment, cleanliness and decor of the old town
  3. Promote that identity first in a well-defined target and in an ever-widening fashion.

For many relatively small Italian historical centres, the first point often coincides simply with the rediscovery of their roots, a fundamental step in re-capturing their own story and re-telling it. A strategy that will bring great benefits in the medium term if this story is told and shared by generations of children in schools that one day may think of creating an enterprise in connection with their town.

We have seen the effect of Discoverplaces.travel guide of Paliano among the third elementary school children of Paliano. They went to the village with the guide and felt proud of their town so much that one of them told her teacher:

“Teacher, this means that every day we walk on our history!”

The second point is essential for the tourist’s welcome to the town. Often, we underestimate it, but it’s as if we invited friends to our home and let them find it dirty and messy. We would immediately create a bad reputation in the minds of our friends and we would begin to lose credibility. Tourists who go to small centres often have a high degree of culture and are accustomed to the concept of ‘beautiful’. Finding the place a little less respectable can mean having blogs and social networks full of negative reviews about the town.

Even here, in recent years, a great deal of work has been done on the emotional ‘re-appropriation’ or ‘re-appreciation’ of a town’s or country’s common goods as citizens themselves begin to take greater care. We will have to come up with clean-up days on the ‘Clean Up Australia’ model where for a day Australians take care of their country, picking up rubbish from streets and parks, highways and lakes, back lanes and the countryside.

The third point is conceptually the most difficult for an Italian accustomed to considering communication as spending and not as an investment. For many, it is almost impossible to conceive professionals working in communications, choose target on which to aim, speak 2 or 3 languages, and write optimized content for search engines like Google.

Italians are used to ‘brick’, to the percentages to sales agents but not to strategy and communication professionals. To make an example this year when we went to present our Tourist Guides of the Italian Villages at the Literature Travel Festival in Rome, we realized with surprise that the Festival was sponsored by Catalonia, which had a large stand with lots of illustrative material and good narrators telling the beauties of their country.

We should not be surprised if more Italians will go to Barcelona and Catalonia and fewer will come to our centres!


But what does all this have to do with modern and contemporary art?

In research and identification of identity, one can run the risk of a nostalgic and reminiscent view of the past that does not give the current perception of current lifestyles. History must be able to live as an experience not only as a spectator but as a protagonist. So here are real medieval markets where real artisans are working or here are people who can take part in historical parades, in the preparation of a flower festival or something else.

But one of the most striking ways to give back life to a historic country or town today is to skillfully measure the intervention of modern and contemporary artwork. Give the idea that the beauty of the past continues in the present works, create collective artistic moments with which living artists can participate, be interviewed and interact.

Here are some examples of truly effective interventions as modern art gives a new perspective to the territory that does not conflict with historical recollections but exalts and reinforces it. A perspective that also attracts another type of art-loving tourist that increases the tourist attraction of the towns and villages.

Examples of integration of contemporary art in the villages of Lazio

There are incredible examples where contemporary art has given new light to historic buildings such as the Castello Colonna di Genazzano with the CIAC – International Center of Contemporary Art that since 1979 hosts exhibitions and art installations with international collaborations. Illustrious guests and all the major Italian art critics have written about this castle, whose entrance garden is dominated by remarkable modern sculptures.

Another interesting example is that of the village of Vico nel Lazio, where there is is the Museum of Peace, with the ‘New Primitives’ movement by Vincenzo Bianchi, while along the outer walls of the historic centre there are sculptures dedicated to the Brotherhood. The works are the result of a season in which artists from all over the world have come to this beautiful village. In addition, walking through the old town you can find murals with poems that are inspirational to all visitors.

Cultural integration, in fact, is not limited to art or sculpture, but it is overwhelming in all fields, and even music and poetry are part of the artistic offer of a village and part of its tourist attraction.

In Cave, in the province of Rome, one of the most impressive attractions is the immense statues of the crib in the Lorenzo Ferri Museum, which also have the Guinness record of being the tallest in the world. The statues were placed on the basement of the Church of St. Stephen with rocks and brick-faced blocks. A clever play of lights and shadows then makes this marriage between modern art and ancient architecture a unique moment and just this is worth a trip to this hamlet.

Also in the province of Rome, the alleys of the centre of Rocca Priora are characterized by works by Mario Benedetto Robazza, fountains and a particular Via Crucis where each station is a true work of art. The collaboration between master and village has been sealed with the Museum where his works and in particular the trials of the author of Inferno are exhibited, a ‘wall’ of bronze from which a 90-meter-long work was extracted.

But possibly the most lively and exciting collaboration is between Frosinone and its Academy of Fine Arts, which gave rise to MACA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, in the city. The museum was created thanks to the donations of all the artists and professors who had collaborated with the prestigious institution over the years.

The school and the museum are integrated into a perfect example of Umbertine architecture right in the historic center of Frosinone and over the years have become the reference point not only of the city but of the entire province.

In June, the Academy realized its Open Day with fashion and music shows and a very special light mapping on the long facade of the building. Mapping is the particular artistic form that plays with lights on the facades of the buildings, as in the Illuminazione dell’Ara Pacis in Rome that shows the true colours of the monument or on Earth Day with images projected on the Basilica of Saint Peter. This event will soon be a true reference point and a national festival in collaboration with other institutes.

The Frosinone Academy has one of the best mapping schools and this peculiarity may be strategic to incorporating classical culture and modern culture with an addition of technological knowledge, which was the element that featured the industrial fabric of Frosinone and Cassino for years.

Recently, the academy has worked with several communes as well as with Boville Ernica where it has realized an interesting ’emigrant sculpture’ which then became the symbol of the Giotto Prize, an award each year that the municipality assigns to the protagonists of the town’s life. The name of the award comes from a mosaic attributed to Giotto who is in the church of San Pietro Ispano: once again an identity built on an element of the past that has been enriched by integration with contemporary art.

Claudia Bettiol

Ingegnere, futurista e fondatrice di Discoverplaces. Blogger specializzato nella sostenibilità e nella promozione culturale dei piccoli territori e delle piccole imprese. Ama i cavalli


Engineeer, futurist, joint founder of Energitismo and founder of Discoverplaces. Blogger specialising in sustainability and in cultural promotion of small places and small enterprises. She loves horses