Excerpt - Preface
During the 35 years that I lived in Rome a succession of English newspapers and magazines provided the international community with information and news. For each of these, in turn, I collaborated as a writer turning out regular articles about art, antiques and lifestyle. In those pre-computer and internet days, I pounded out my articles on a typewriter with carbon paper inserted. Mistakes were corrected with a rubber eraser or whitener before racing into the editorial office by bus or subway to hand in my copy before deadline.
Moscow was home during the Perestroika years where, besides being a “trailing wife” in the Italian business community, I scouted out information and cultural news as staff writer for the first Western-style magazine. Members of the international community often thanked me for hints that helped make Moscow life easier: from the location of new restaurants to the best places to purchase paintings, sculptures, detergents and food.
Returning to Italy we traded life in the big city for a calmer lifestyle and larger home in the Viterbo province where we knew there was an abundance of thermal baths, Etruscan sites and local traditions. These beckoned temptingly to be explored and enjoyed but finding them was another matter. Directions and information were as difficult to uncover as they had been in Soviet Russia!
As I scoured salvage dealers in surrounding towns for fireplaces and tiles to restore the old palazzo we had purchased, I gathered information and insight. Thanks to local historians and new friends I discovered fascinating stories about the area. Until recently, the only books that gave attention to this part of central Italy were those specialized in archeology. Most English guidebooks ignored the area completely, leading new residents to believe that “civilization” stopped at the northern Roman suburb of Olgiata.
The fourth in a series about this area, Etruria-Travel, History and Itineraries in Central Italy wishes to fill this void by giving new information about a part of Italy still to be discovered by mass tourism. Some of the essays, originally written for local Italian magazines, have been adapted for English language visitors. Others were developed from culture lectures presented to university students and cruise ship audiences. A few stories describing local traditions and festivals have been revised and included to show how little life in Northern Lazio has changed over the years. The essays that narrate the area’s little known international connections and history are the fruit of original research and long hours of digging through archives in Italy, England and Ireland to discover information not found in available guidebooks. Visitors’ enjoyment will be increased when they have a deeper understanding of the area’s background and the people who lived here before us.
Inspiration comes from Georgina Masson’s almost anthropologic interest in documenting local customs and life. It is only fitting to follow Masson’s lead because it was her Companion Guide to Rome and a sturdy folding map that helped me make the city of Rome my own when I first arrived in Italy in 1965.
So excited to use the info I read about in Etruria! The writing style in this book was so fun to read, like a journal or letter to a friend with so much info about hidden treasure not mentioned in other travel books!
Etruia is a gem, so glad I finally got my hands on a copy! Thank you Mary Jane, your efforts are admired and envied by this midwest american woman. Presto!
Etruria travel, history and itineraries in Central Italy
Etruria arrived so quickly that I double-checked the packaging to see if it had indeed begun its journey in Italy. By now I have stolen time from pressing duties to enjoy the first few chapters, and I am loving the book. Again I want to thank you for making your book available. It is so full of those rich anecdotal facts that make the region more intriguing. How I wish I could have a remedial year on the Via Cassia just to explore so many places I knew nothing about in the 1980s. If and when I do return there, you can bet I will have Dr. Cryan’s ”Etruria” in my bag. Henrietta Speaks
Vetralla, Vetralla? Why Vetralla? The power of the internet offers a wealth of information and knowledge. During my excited planning I found Mary Jane Cryan who lives in Vetralla, so it was through her and her generosity that I found my base camp there.
Mary Jane had recommended and helped me secure a perfect place to stay – il Mio Posto Tranquillo. Down a passageway through large gates to a peaceful haven, friendly owners, a fine room, a terrace and a lawned garden.
Meeting her subsequently, here was a person of wisdom and a rare infectious spirit (which the internet cannot provide), consummate knowledge of and enthusiasm for Etruria. I am the proud possessor of a signed copy of her latest book- Etruria- Travel, History and Itineraries in Central Italy.
Mary Jane Cryan’s book Etruria for me is the sequel to DH Lawrence – they lie side by side on the table; one having stood the test of a hundred years the other surely to do so. The deep and perceptive poet Lawrence lies alongside the rich current enthusiasm of Mary Jane. As I have lost myself in one I now ravish the other.
Their combined works humming in my mind, I set out to discover my first Etruscan necropolis, Norchia approximately 15 kilometres from Vetralla. Enthusiasm overtakes adequate planning, arriving footsore after too much road walking.A narrow bitumen road gives way to a footpath 400 metres from the site.
I am brought to the end of the road by car, driven by a kind man with a huge moustache, who took pity on me. I saw him first in the cafe on the main road – he and his fellows were incredulous that I should have walked from Vetralla. He is of this place, he belongs to this place – how secure it makes one feel to be in the company of someone who land this is. The traveller is able to become connected to permanence and durability.
No map or pre planning can prepare for the physical reality. The footpath runs across fields, a perfect introduction-cars left behind-now just the wind through the swaying field edge eucalypts, the ochre soil and the bright sun above; and so to the lip of the ravine where the foot worn rock ‘tufo’, is small preparation for the ancient sculptural power below. The steep narrow path cut into the rock soon reveals huge carved hollows cut deep and dark into the tufo. Climbing further down the ancient access way I am swallowed up by the wonder of this place. Tim Saville www.visualartscrete.com
Local non-fiction readers in the area north of Rome, south of Orvieto, will appreciate Mary Jane Cryan’s compilation of educative, journalistic and travel articles on a lesser-known area of modern Italy that was well-known to the ancient world as the Latinized “Etruria.” Cryan’s book is a reference book on what has happened in the region in the past 500 years, not 2800 years past where the Etruscans established a culture that was annihilated by the Romans.
Three ancient cities, still in existence, Tarquinia, Tuscania and Vetralla, are focused upon for their historic background and appeal to those of the 21st century. Scholared-researcher Cryan delights in giving detailed accounts, some personal, some historic, some tidbits, of what makes the region click today. The last chapter of Etruria is the best. Cryan gives the ins and outs of renovating a derelict palazzo through love of place. Bravo!
Rosalind Burgundy www.etruscan-italy.com
In the Tyrrhenian coastal part of Central Italy known as Old Etruria, Mary Jane Cryan is a consummate forager–not for mushrooms (though we who live here find plenty of those), but for places and people in time. In Cryan’s newest book, Etruria: Travel, History and Itineraries in Central Italy, gardens, castles and fountains hold pride of place. But in addition Cryan, who is a veteran journalist, researcher, lecturer, writer of guidebooks and weaver of historical tales, introduces us to forgotten heros and heroines and a few rotters.
I could not resist turning immediately to the chapter entitled Early Americans in Etruria. Who knew that Bernard Berenson had called at the fabulous Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, an hour north of Rome, while on a scouting mission to purchase masterpieces for Isabella Stewart Gardner?
Not all those to whom she introduces us are as well remembered as art dealer and connoisseur Berenson, but they are well worth becoming new acquaintances. At about that same time in the gaslight era when Berenson was snapping up masterpieces for the woman who gave Boston its extraordinary museum, Don Alfonso, heir to the Doria Pamphilj fortunes in Rome and Genoa rented that very palazzo, into which he installed his gorgeous American mistress, Frances Baldwin of Boston. Frances, who was as beautiful as she was scandalous, had caught the princely eye in Rome after she had dumped her estranged husband because he had shot and killed her lover in Monte Carlo. As Cryan informs us, so exotic was all this that Gabriele D’Annunzio, who would never shrink from scandal, gave Frances and her daughter roles in his 1895 novel, Le Vergine delle Rocce.
Old Etruria, with its extraordinary towns like Civita di Bagnoreggio and Marta, its volcanic lakes and countryside scattered with ancient Roman ruins, still remains surprisingly and delightfully off the usual tourist routes. For those with a taste for discovery, here is your elegant road map, with an evocative cover painted by the American artist Patricia Glee Smith, plus a wealth of interesting photos, including a fat insert in color; links to helpful websites; and, not least, a useful index. Judith Harris, journalist, author Trevignano, Italy www.judith-harris.com
Mary Jane Cryan’s “Etruria – Travel, History, and Itineraries in Central Italy” is written with the deep knowledge of a scholar and the passion of someone who wasn’t born there. Aside from her knowledgeable itineraries in the area of the province of Viterbo, including a good guide to the tombs of Tarquinia, there are elements of this book that are clearly characterized by personal, expat interests: a study of an Irish family (the Denhams), impressions from early Americans who visited the area, and a description of the international residents of the town of Vetralla. Let’s start off by saying that as you know I’m a big fan of Maremma, so in some way I’m writing about my neighbour and Tuscany’s “competition”. Will this book have a strong impact on tourism and cause hoards to descend on Bolsena (population 4000)? No. I hope not. But if you’re looking for some off-the-beaten-track Italy, this area – and this book – is for you.
When Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia wrote about their trip moving North from Rome in 1858, they did visit Bolsena, and his description has not been taken up by the local APT’s brochure service for good reason. Not to worry though. Malaria is no longer a risk should you wish to visit the Etruscan tombs, hot springs, medieval castles, unusual museums, and impressive gardens that Cryan describes and lists with care in her book. The itineraries she offers are more evocative than practical so you’ll need to mark the locations on a map and find out opening hours before venturing out (a choice that surely gives the book a longer life since opening hours change frequently in Italy… if they are respected at all). One chapter, for example, offers a one-day sampling of the area for cruise-ship passengers disembarking at Civitavecchia (and who choose to eschew Rome’s crowds and shops).
An unusual premise, but one that is likely born from Cryan’s experience as a cruise-ship lecturer – she says that about 25% of these tourists do not go in to Rome for the day. Excellent idea to spread them out on the territory. Practical information is provided here about how to procure transportation in order to explore Tarquinia, Tuscania, Viterbo, Vetralla, and maybe Vulci. This seems like a lot for one day, and the material here can surely be used for a more leisurely visit by anyone not about to float back out of Italy.
I’d certainly like to test out the itinerary of historic gardens of Etruria, with visits to the Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo, the water games of Villa Lante at Bagnaia, Caprarola’s Palazzo Farnese (with frescoed animals paragoned to Dr. Seuss a comparison unknown to Italians), and the “Secret Garden” at Castello Ruspoli in Vignanelllo. These sound like marvelous places that I’m putting on my to-do list. Etruria – Travel, History, and Itineraries is unquestionably a wonderful gift to Northern Lazio (who will likely reward the author as they have done in the past for her books) and a treat for all of us who think we know Italy well: there’s always somewhere else to be discovered! Alexandra Korey, Florence, Italy www.arttrav.com
In this, her fourth book in a long series of observations and descriptions of the fascinating and still relatively undiscovered area north of Rome known as “Tuscia” or “Etruria”, Irish-American writer Mary Jane Cryan takes readers on yet another journey revealing new archaeological and artistic treasures, forgotten castles and monuments and surprising historical facts.
Cryan introduces us to little-known sites, such as the spectacular Nymphaeum of Orte, which she says “will soon be as well known as the caves under Orvieto”, the recently discovered Sanctuary of Demeter near Vetralla, the abandoned city of Monterano “often used as a set for horror films” and the Abbey of San Giusto at Tuscania, recovered from oblivion thanks to the tenacity and dedication of Mauro Checcoli, a 1964 Olympic gold medallist.
Digging into old archives produced forgotten stories about the Irish Denham family, who possessed large tracts of territory in northern Lazio in the 18th-19th century and the St. Patrick’s brigade, Irish volunteers who fought with the papal army against the unification of Italy in 1860, as well as accounts of the pleasure trips taken in the area by Cardinal Henry Stuart, last of the ill-fated Stuart dynasty, ousted from the British throne largely because of their fervid Catholicism.
Cryan’s last chapter is autobiographical. It gives a hair-raising account of her struggles to restore the apartment she purchased in 1993 in the 18th century Palazzo Pieri Piatti at Vetralla and should act as a timely warning to any starry-eyed would-be Frances Mayes (“Under the Tuscan Sun”) ex-pats dreaming of embarking on a similar undertaking. “Etruria, Travel, History and Itineraries in Central Italy”, published by Edizioni Archeoares, is illustrated with photos taken by nine Italian and foreign photographers, while the cover design is by artist Patricia Glee Smith. Margaret Stenhouse, Nemi, Italy Journalist
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. Linda Lappin www.lindalappin.net
What a wonderful guide to a region off the beaten path of central Italy — just north of Rome, around Viterbo. Most tourists typically drive around this region and head straight for Umbria or Tuscany — and miss the natural charms of the wonderful lake region just about an hour and a half north or Rome. The author has lived in Italy for over 40 years, as both a teacher and writer and has captured some of the more interesting and beautiful sights in the Etruria region, where she now resides, such as the gardens at Villa Farnese and Via Lante and the festival of Santa Chistina at Lake Bolsena as well as the Monster park at Bomarzo. My wife and I have visited both these gardens and they are worth the day trip from Rome — as is Bolsena. Not another Under The Tuscan Sun — but rather a serious guide to this region which will enlighten both the well traveled Italian tourist as well as those new to Rome. Douglas Ritter, Texas
Well, you’ve managed to do it, again. Publish another historical narrative of considerable scholarship, but with commendable, enjoyable, precision and clarity. Rarely does one experience such a “good read” as ETRURIA Travel, History and Itineraries In Central Italy. Such an abundance of erudition housed in such clear, concise language. I wolfed down the book in one setting. Joe Krupsky, Italophile lawyer, N.J
It was fascinating to discover the gems in your book describing the history, the natural environment, and the people. In each location, I had the feeling of a special something or someone being there. I have re-read portions that hold special meanings such as the town of Vetralla which I saw so briefly on one very rainy Sunday. I almost felt the need to apologize for the remarks made by Mrs. Hawthorne. I sense your love for the area and understand more fully Roberto’s brief description regarding the wonders of the area which few foreign travelers take the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate. However, perhaps it is best to keep your wonderful area unspoiled by tourists. I would like very much to return and spend some time there. Thank you (and Roberto) for the chance to discover an area not covered by our teachers in classes on European History nor the Tourism Industry. I am honored to be able to express to you my appreciation for your thoughtful and extensive coverage of this most interesting part of Italy. Bobbie Miller , USA
An unusual travel guide to Lazio and southern Tuscany. There are very few guide books to Maremma written in English and so when a new one comes into print I am always keen to delve in and check them out. This one, written by journalist Mary Jane Cryan, is a treasure trove of information. If a previous visit to Maremma and northern Lazio has ignited a desire to return, then this book will surprise you with the treasures you didn’t know you had missed the first time! Donna Stiles www.maremmaguide.com
Etruria is a book is for those who have fallen in love with Rome and have come back to explore the surroundings. It is for the bookworm looking for his/her own Under the Tuscan Sun. It is for armchair historians who want more to read in the setting sun precisely where that history took place. For those who don’t just like to get of the beaten path, but those who actively pursue it– whether via conversation or reading. Mary Jane’s book is for those who want to infuse themselves with Etruria, much as Georgina Masson’s book (Companion Guide to Rome) was for those who loved saturating themselves with Rome. It is clearly written with an easy flow, like a path where one encounters old friends and old places along with new. Erica Firpo,Rome www.moscerina.com
Etruria-travel, history and itineraries in Central Italy by Mary Jane Cryan is somehow like a spell. After having read it, you feel an irresistible desire to visit all the places it speaks of. Even if you have already known them, you are bound to visit them again, under the light of new information .We Italians should highly appreciate Mary Jane’s work for having drawn attention to this impressive but not so well known part of Italy. This book is never boring , since it contains a lively carousel of animated characters who lend a deeply human atmosphere to the places. Noticeably, this book comes after serious researches, readers will find in it many things of interest. Enjoy! Giuliana Mattiello, teacher/translator,Viterbo,Italy
The book arrived this week–and it is just beautiful. I love the cover and the photographs, but best of all is the opportunity the book offers to explore so many fascinating historical, cultural, and geographical pathways with you. You are an insider who somehow always manages to see with fresh eyes. Probably no Italian could have written it, but neither could it have been accomplished without your many years of looking, asking questions of people, texts, and objects, and openness to your rich surroundings. Brava! Bonne August, Provost, New York University, New York City.
How to order
Order your signed copy of Etruria Travel, History and Itineraries in Central Italy
Click here to purchase a signed copy. Payment options include paypal and US $ check. Discount for bulk orders. The book is now being used as a textbook for several college courses in Italy.
Cost 12 euro with free postage within Italy. To order an e-book copy go to http://www.edizioniarcheoares.it/etruria