ITALY (ABRUZZO, MARCHE and ROMA)
THIS IS A FIXED DEPARTURE EXPERIENCE.
THIS SURPRISE-PACKED 9 DAY ITINERARY IS TIMED TO COINCIDE WITH LA QUINTANA IN ASCOLI PISCENO.
DATES: JULY 2015
NOTE: THERE IS ALSO A SENSATIONAL THREE-DAY EXTENSION AVAILABLE.
"LA GRANDE BELLEZZA" EXTENSION IS A CHANCE TO EXPLORE ROME IN A MANNER FEW PEOPLE EVER DO.
DETAILS AVAILABLE AT THE END OF THE ITALY ITINERARY PAGE.
ALSO EXTENSION AVAILABLE
Here’s an experience like nothing else being offered in Italy today.
Over nine days you'll find unique opportunities to access hidden and forgotten aspects of Italian culture while enjoying stunning accommodation and brilliant food in wonderful locations. The journey begins in the pristine hilltop village of S. Stefano di Sessanio (voted one of the prettiest in Italy) and concludes with a three day party - the oldest Paleo in Italy - in the Medieval masterpiece Ascoli Piceno.
In between you'll get the chance to track wolves in a national park (with experts who can share stories about the folkloric significance of this noble creature) and even enter the 'red zone' - normally off-limits - to tell the story of a city foresaken after much of her ancient heart was destroyed by an earthquake (meet people who have lived through it and who are now rebuilding their lives and homes).
All this is possible because of the privileged access afforded by the camera. Come and immerse yourself in Italian culture like you never imagined possible.
NUMBERS ARE STRICTLY LIMITED FOR BOTH THE ABRUZZO, MARCHE EXPERIENCE AND THE ROME EXTENSION.
DAY 1 (27th July) ROMA
Arrive in ROME
A private transfer will escort you to the Hilton hotel at Fiumicino Airport; spend what remains of the day relaxing or reading over your story notes and research material; or, getting to know your camera and sound recording equipment. We can hand it all over to you today or tomorrow, depending on your preference.
We have chosen accommodation close to the airport to facilitate a quick escape to the country tomorrow morning. For those wishing to explore Rome we’ve created an incredibly special three-day extension at the end of the main itinerary. It’s a unique chance for you to live the life of The Great Beauty (the international hit movie). Details available separately on request.
Because of the vagaries of weather and other things beyond our control we reserve the right to modify the itinerary.
DAY 2 (28th July) S. STEFANO DI SESSANIO
We set off after breakfast for the fortified medieval village of St Stefano di Sessanio. It’s located in the mountains of Abruzzo, 1250 metres above sea level, inside the Gran Sasso Monti della Laga National Park, but it’s only two hours and150 kms from Rome. Santo Stefano di Sessanio has been named one of Italy's prettiest villages, "I Borghi Piu Belli D’Italia", and you’ll spend the next four nights at the Albergo Diffuso Sextantio; an award-winning hotel where every detail has been thoughtfully considered.
After settling in to your superb and unique accommodation we gather for lunch in the Cantinone. The first of many gastronomic delights that awaits you.
After lunch it’s time to gather in the medieval meeting room for the briefing. This is a chance for you to really get to know your filmmaking mentors and tour guides. The emphasis is on fun. You can creatively engage with story possibilities, familiarise yourself with the high quality equipment, have all your questions answered. Notes on filmmaking and the stories that await you are provided. But most of all we want to hear what you hope to get out of the experience, because we understand that everyone have slightly different expectations and we want to tailor the trip to meet your exact needs and desires. If we haven’t had a chance to speak by phone before the trip begins this is your chance to tell us how you’d like to approach your filmmaking experience.
Then, spend the rest of the day exploring the village. It’s a classic example of an Italian medieval hill town, with perimeter walls encircling houses and squares. During the last century the “modernization” of rural Italy compromised the architectural heritage of many villages and towns, but Santo Stefano was deserted, its impoverished inhabitants having left in search of work. Paradoxically, its abandonment saved the town’s medieval architecture and today we get to enjoy the revitalised community. Try out your gear in the glorious Italian light. Tomorrow we begin in earnest and we have something special in store for you.
DAY 3 (29th July) GRAN SASSO MONTI DELLA LAGA
Who’s Afraid of the big bad wolf? In this ‘day into night’ adventure we will explore the wild spaces of the Gran Sasso Monti della Laga National Park, in search of the traces of the most mysterious and elusive animal of the Apennine Mountains; the wolf! One of my favourite Italian expressions is ‘la bocca del lupo’ literally ‘the mouth of the wolf’. Colloquially it means ‘Good Luck!’.
We set out before dusk with night vision cameras to see if we can discover the illusive wolf in his natural habitat, surely a unique experience in Italian travel. Joining us is an expert naturalist who, in addition to guiding us toward the howling wolves, will share all the secrets of the wolf’s life. The night will work its magic on the woods. It will not be easy to see the most wary of the mountain predators but with patience, the experience of our guides and a bit of luck, it’s possible that we’ll encounter our illusive quarry. So, la bocca del lupo!
Next morning you can sleep in, we’ve arranged a late breakfast. If your partner or companion isn’t making a film we have lots of other wonderful activities closer to the village that we can suggest to pass the time while you are “hunting wolves” in the woods.
*In the event that there are more than a four filmmakers in the group we will split into two groups.
DAY 4 (30th July)
Today we’ll set off for the mountains again. It’s only a short trip from our accommodation. We’ll introduce you to a shepherd who considers the wolf his respected enemy. He can explain the dangers of this animal and the techniques to approach it, but he has many stories to tell. The long summer nights waiting for the arrival of the “enemy” are often at the centre of these tales. Of course, the history of the wolf in these parts is in fact the history of the men who have made these mountains their home.
Later as dusk approaches, you will meet a gamekeeper who will describe the difficulty of combating poaching, especially in this period of economic crisis. In these high altitude villages of the Gran Sasso Mountains, where men have lived for centuries, woodcutting and sheep-farming, the wolf has marked the collective imagination and provided innumerable folkloric stories. Perhaps one of these will inform your own story. The relationship between man and wolf in Abruzzo has ancient roots. Even in recent decades, it was customary to give newborn children a wolf tooth as a good luck amulet.
By the middle of the 20th Century the wolf was almost extinct. In wasn’t until 1971 that a law was passed to protect the wolf from hunting and poisoning. Since the 1980s the wolf has been seen again in Abruzzo, and today flocks of wolves have returned to live I n the Gran Sasso Mountains. This is your chance to tell your version of this little known aspect of Italian life. You can emphasise the good news story of the species’ protection, or weave the folkloric aspects of the animals role in modern Italian life. Or you can juxtapose the modernity of Europe with life in this little pocket evoking a bygone era.
DAY 5 (31st July) L'AQUILA
Now for something completely different. We are making the short journey from S. Stefano di Sessanio to the city of L’Aquila - the ancient heart of which was destroyed by a 6.3 Richter Scale earthquake in 2009. Documentary filmmaking is all about privileged access so we’ve arranged access to the Red Zone, where tourists can never venture. You will see with your own eyes the destruction wrought, and the precarious state of many wonderful ancient buildings. You will meet frustrated locals who are waiting for funds to begin reconstruction of this marvellous city. One resident at the time made this prophetic statement: “I hope we are not forgotten once the emergency is over and the media have switched off their lights.” This is your chance to turn the lights back on.
Imagine if it had been Sienna which had been destroyed and starved of funds for reconstruction. There’d be an international outcry. This is a unique opportunity to tell the story of the citizens of Aquila, and better understand a sadly ignored natural disaster.
We will also provide additional archival footage for your story. In addition to this you’ll have the opportunity to meet local people and draw on their personal photo archives. It promises to be a day you’ll never forget, and so different to the typical tourist experience.
*In the event that there are more than four filmmakers interested in entering the Red Zone we will split the group in two.
DAY 6 (1st August) ASCOLI PISCENO
After breakfast we make the short (1.5 hr) journey to the Medieval masterpiece that is Ascoli Piceno. The old centre of the town is built almost entirely from travertino marble. There is a Roman gate (1st Century BC) which was the entry point of the famous Via Salaria (the salt road) to the city. The story of salt plays an important role in the creation of this city, and of course the story of salt is central to the story of European civilization. But we’re not here to tell history stories, or the marvellous architecture, we’ve come to film and participate in three days of festivities known as La Quintana, which some claim is the most authentic and historically contiguous Palio in the entire country.
After an enjoyable lunch with some of the key characters and organisers of the festivities, it’s time to do a ‘recce’. We’ll familiarise ourselves with the layout of the town and the path of the procession. We’ll work out how we approach shooting the experience, and spend time getting to know, and possibly interviewing our characters. The best approach to understanding a cultural event such as this is to have a key participant in the experience explain it to our audience. That’s the method we’ll employ. You’ll not simply film the event, you’ll get to the core of it; drawn inward by the insights and involvements of your character. You’ll be swept along in a swirl of colour and excitement. All the while we’ll be there, your mentors, offering suggestions, advice, and additional footage to help you make the best film imaginable.
Accommodation for our three nights in Ascoli Piceno is the historical Palazzo dei Mercanti, a lovingly restored palatial residence just a few steps from the splendid Piazza del Popolo.
DAY 7 (2nd August)
Today the preparations are in full swing. You’ll get involved, of course. You can interview your character. Shoot images of tourists and people from outlying regions arriving and taking their place along the course of the parade.
In the afternoon it’s time to relax at your hotel. Then in the evening the costume parade begins. We’ll make sure you’ve got a shooting plan and good access to film your story. Perhaps your character will be a participant. It will be a fabulous couple of hours where you’ll feel much more involved and engaged than a tourist ever could. You’ll learn the significance of the nine castles and how they came to be united in defence of Ascoli. You’ll learn about the significance of the Sestieri “colours” and what they represent. You’ll learn about the ancient Roman layout of the town and it’s significance today. This information can find its way into your film, or if you prefer, you can focus your camera on the reactions of the townspeople who take this tradition so much to heart. It’s your story, you tell it as you wish.
DAY 8 (3rd August)
The Giostra della Quintana is the centre piece of the festivities. It’s essentially a medieval equestrian reenactment that takes place on the first Sunday of August every year. It’s dedicated to Saint Emidio, patron saint and first bishop of the town. There are two main parts of the event: The procession of knights and flag bearers, followed by the equestrian competition which runs into the night. It’s a high energy event and uniquely Italian. As ancient at the famous Palio in Siena, but yet to be overrun with tourists. You can’t miss the medieval origins of these events. It’s utterly transporting. The history of the town and the local regions are closely woven into the fabric of this event. It’s fun of course, but the locals take it all quite seriously.
By following your character you’ll be taken right to the heart of the experience and finish up with a completely unique insight into this special occasion. The Palio is in many respects the climax of the story, but like any good movie there’s more story to be told. Our third act is yet to play out.
The experience culminates with a party hosted by the winning knight. Doesn't that sound like a fabulous night? Pardon the pun.
DAY 9 (4th August) ROME
Return to Rome.
THIS IS ALSO THE BEGINNING DAY FOR THE 'GRANDE BELLEZZA' THREE DAY EXTENSION IN ROME.
TO RECEIVE THE FULL ITINERARY FOR BOTH THE 9 DAY TRIP AND THE EXTENSION, IN THE FORM OF A FULL COLOUR BROCHURE EMAIL US AT: