Viterbo – a mixed massage

We arrived at the B&B dei Papi in Viterbo in the evening by a series of tortuous turns through the old city, finishing near the Cathedral Bridge, where we patiently negotiated with the nearby tenants for a parking space.

Climbing the stairs of the B&B to the first level I was met by a pleasant modern erotic painting of four ladies, front and back, and fortunately, wherever I looked as we ascended to our second floor room, one or more ladies were introduced to my view.

Not surprisingly given this rewarding gallery, the elegant B&B has been converted from a modern art gallery by its owner following the decline of disposable wealth in rural Italian cities, such as this area of Etruria away from the more popular Tuscan travel route. Those tourists who do seek out Viterbo find it as the centre of Etruscan Necropoli, with a National Archeological Museum, La Rocca Albornoz, devoted principally to the many Etruscan burial sites in the Viterbo province.

Others cross the Cathedral Bridge to seek the Cathedral and Papal Palace of the renaissance period, when popes and even Michelangelo found refuge here in the spas to relieve traditional maladies of the wealthy such as gout and kidney stones. As well as the spas and numerous fountains of city, there is a wide selection of churches representing different architectural styles, and a welcoming bar or two.

However, we are here for two days of the National Conference of Small Italian Museums, of which there may be about 8000, though somewhat poorly represented here, maybe reflecting their disposable resources.

We also took the opportunity to visit Sabrina Zibellini who, with her partner Luca Scarantino, have created MadeinLava, and became a partner of Energitismo. Their business is a true child of Etruscan cities, as their elegant furniture utilizes the local Peperino volcanic stone, beautifully ceramic glazed with modern art designs and blended colours. These glazed slabs and slices are constructed into furniture with local timber, in exclusive and personalised architectural forms.

With this range of impressions, I was reminded of Marshall McLuhan’s book, ’The Medium is the Massage’. It seems that how we see Viterbo, the ‘medium’, is necessarily mixed in form and function.

Nothing could have reinforced this view more than the annual Naldi fashion show cum concert that started late on the Friday evening on the Piazza della Morte at the entrance to and across the Cathedral bridge. What the show may have lacked in lighting and sexual tension, more usual on the walkway of an indoor fashion show, it made up for with an electrical performance of popular’ composition on the violin.

HER Erma Pia Castriota produced a post-modern expressionist experience on her electrical violin that out-did the exuberance and music contrast of more famous performers. For us, the perfect show would have had a few less models and a bit more of musical expression. Nevertheless, if there were any remaining souls resting in their sarcophagi under the Piazza, they would surely have been awoken by the subsequent disco concert and sought refuge in the museum.

An interesting diversion from the more northern cities of Tuscany and one where a weekend could be well lost in modern and ancient stoneware and more recent products of the vine.