moai di vitorchiano

The History of the Moai Statue of Vitorchiano

Just a few kilometres from Viterbo lies Vitorchiano, the splendid village in Tuscia suspended on volcanic rocks. And here you will find the only Moai statue in the world, outside Easter Island.
Table of contents:
  1. What is a suspended village
  2. What is the Moai of Vitorchiano
  3. What a Moai looks like
  4. Where is the Italian Moai

Just fifteen minutes by car from Viterbo, stands Vitorchiano, an ancient village and historical jewel set among the volcanic rocks of Tuscia. Considered one of the most evocative historic centres in the province of Viterbo, it also enjoys the prestigious accolade of one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy'. And here we also find the only original Moai monolith in the world, outside Easter Island (or Rapa Nui).

What Borgo Sospeso means

The integrity of its ancient core, the dwellings that seem to blend harmoniously with the peperino cliffs on which they are erected, give Vitorchiano its distinctive appellation: the Borgo Sospeso (Suspended Village). The origin of this name lies in the unique geology of the area. Deposits of volcanic materials, modelled over millennia by the activity of volcanoes, have created the imposing cliffs on which the villages of Tuscia rise. However, what makes Vitorchiano truly special is its peperino bank, fractured into enormous boulders, on which the village buildings rest directly. This peculiarity creates a fascinating visual illusion, making it seem as if the village has been carved into the rock. The houses, clinging and overhanging, merge with the lava rock, creating a perfect harmony with the Valle del Vezza and the surrounding landscape, rich in oak, ash, beech, elm and chestnut forests.

What is the Moai of Vitorchiano

And it was precisely the abundance of peperino that made Vitorchiano the perfect place to build a gigantic Moai statue. Moai statues are anthropomorphic monoliths carved by the indigenous Polynesian population Rapa Nui (which is also the original name of Easter Island), mostly between 1100 and 1500. They are veritable stone giants up to 21 metres high, probably augural monoliths bringing wellbeing and prosperity wherever they look. The Moai of Vitorchiano was built in 1990 by the Atan family, originally from Rapa Nui and consisting of 19 people. The occasion for the construction of the Vitorchiano monolith was the RAI television programme 'In Search of the Ark' by journalist Mino D'Amato. Intent on promoting the restoration of the Easter Island Moai, the journalist was looking for a stone in Italy that was as close as possible to the volcanic stone from which the giants of Rapa Nui were made, with which to build an Italian Moai. Vitorchiano, home of the peperino stone, was identified as the ideal place to realise the work, and the Atan family the right craftsmen.

What the Moai of Vitorchiano looks like

After months of work, the Atans created an original Moai by working the stone with the same ancient techniques used on Easter Island for the construction of the original Maoi. From an artistic point of view, the Moai of Vitorchiano is a testimony to the skill and mastery of the sculptors. Faithful to the originals, the statue has deep grooves, hard, simple and linear features, and fine details such as the long ears, the emphasised navel and the tapered hands clinging to the belly. To this day, the Moai of Vitorchiano represents the only Moai stone sculpture of original size found outside Easter Island.

Where the Moai of Vitorchiano is located

The Moai statue has gone through various locations over the years. First located in the centre of Piazzale Umberto I, in 2007 it was temporarily transferred to Sardinia to be displayed in an exhibition of pre-Columbian art. Returning to Vitorchiano after nine months, the statue found its definitive location on Largo Padre Ettore Salimbeni, in the municipality's camper van area that overlooks the suggestive belvedere of the 'Borgo Sospeso'.

The Moai of Vitorchiano, with its imposing presence and fascinating history, stands as an icon of one of Italy's most beautiful villages, representing a unique link between the millenary history of Easter Island and the timeless beauty of Vitorchiano, the suspended village of Tuscia.

hall of fortunes

The Hall of Fortunes enriches Torre Alfina Castle

Restored and opened about a month ago, the new Sala delle Sorti enriches the visit to the Torre Alfina Castle, arousing great interest and curiosity among visitors. It is a room decorated with allegorical frescoes that probably date back to the 1660s and transport observers into a world of mystery and divination.
Table of contents:
  1. The House of Monaldeschi
  2. Allegorical frescoes
  3. Vices versus Virtues
  4. A historical-artistic testimony

The Prestige of the House

The decoration of the Hall of Fortunes was commissioned by Monaldo Monaldeschi della Cervara, canon of St. Peter's and an illustrious member of the Monaldeschi family that ruled the castle and the village of Torre Alfina for centuries. The hand behind the execution of these works remains shrouded in mystery, although a possible influence of the Venetian painter Bartolomeo Cinzio, whom Monaldo Monaldeschi knew well thanks to his stay in Padua, is speculated. The intention of the decoration was to artistically represent the prestige and moral propriety of the Monaldeschi family.

The Allegories of the Hall of Fortunes

The frescoes in the Sala delle Sorti are inspired by the book Il Giardino dei Pensieri by Francesco Marcolini da Forlì, published in 1540. This is a fortune-telling and fortune-telling text in which human vices and virtues are depicted. In the castle hall, depictions of the Vices, such as Insidiousness, Lies and Discord, alternate with those of the Virtues, such as Faith, Charity and Temperance. This juxtaposition reflects the eternal struggle between good and evil, the predictability and unpredictability of fate. But while the Virtues are portrayed indoors, symbolising their constant presence and fundamental role in maintaining morality and good governance, the Vices are depicted immersed in outdoor settings. The final visual effect is the feeling that imaginary windows open up in the room, allowing one to observe the evil that lives outside the castle walls.

Vices and Virtues

The frieze runs along the walls of the room and presents a repetitive pattern: each allegorical depiction of vices is followed by a telamon (a male figure supporting the architecture of the frieze) and then a virtue. Thus Insidiousness, a woman fishing in a river flanked by a lynx, is followed by Charity; Discord, a woman holding a bellows from which smoke comes out, is followed by Temperance. Each representation is rich in symbolic detail, offering a comprehensive overview of the forces that shape human destiny and inviting viewers to reflect on the choices and actions that define one's path.

Historical Testimony

The restoration and opening of the Sala delle Sorti in the Torre Alfina Castle is an extraordinary addition to the historical and artistic heritage of the region. This new space enchants and inspires visitors, offering them the opportunity to immerse themselves in a world of symbolism and mystery. The allegorical frescoes of the Sorti e le Virtù represent an important historical and artistic testimony to our region and the people who lived here. the room invites reflection on the forces that influence human destiny and the importance of moral choices. The richness of detail and profound significance of these works testify to the skill and vision of its creators, leaving an indelible imprint on the memory of those privileged enough to visit.

Etruscan pyramid

The Etruscan Pyramid in the Heart of the Sacred Wood of Bomarzo

The small town of Bomarzo in the province of Viterbo is famous for its Parco dei Mostri, a magical and enigmatic place that attracts visitors from every corner of the world. But among the foliage of the thick vegetation that surrounds the park hides an even more mysterious and fascinating secret: the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo, also known as the 'Preacher's Stone'.
Table of contents:
  1. The glorious Etruscan civilisation
  2. Discovery in 1911
  3. Hero Salvatore Fosci
  4. A walk in nature

Clear traces of the Etruscan civilisation

Nestled in the woods of Tuscia, in the Tacchiolo area, the Etruscan Pyramid can be reached from the Park of the Monsters of Bomarzo. It is located in a context rich in artefacts from the Etruscan and prehistoric eraenveloped by what is called the Sacred Forest. Walking along paths that wind between cave dwellings, megalithic rocks, altars and places of worshipone is confronted with an authentic oasis of history and mystery. Even a ancient early Christian cemetery lurks nearby, adding further layers of fascination and enigma to this region steeped in thousands of years of history.

The Discovery of the Etruscan Pyramid

Discovered back in 1911, this extraordinary pyramid has long remained in the shadows, escaping the attention of official archaeology. It is a  imposing structure, approximately 10 metres highwith its steps that ifmends ascending towards the sky. Its truncated pyramid shape is reminiscent of the religious altars of the Maya culture. But its dating, like its true nature, remains shrouded in mystery. Its original function is still the subject of speculation and theories that fascinate fans of history, and archaeology. But the thrill of seeing it emerge from the shadows of the forest is indescribable, as if time stood still before this tangible testimony to a past yet to be revealed.

The Past Comes to Light

From the day of its discovery, for a long time the Etruscan Pyramid remained in a state of total abandonment. Only since 2008 has the pyramid tbrought to light thanks to the dedication of a local resident, Salvatore Fosci. For years, Salvatore has dedicated himself to cleaning the vegetation and maintaining the paths leading to this mysterious place, while also activating a ambitious promotional work to publicise the Pyramid of Bomarzo to the whole world. Thanks to him, it is now possible to visit this masterpiece carved in peperino stone that has spanned more than two millennia of history to make us feel part of the civilisations that preceded us.

Route through nature

The route to the Etruscan Pyramid is anything but easy, but it is full of charm and adventure. These are the site coordinates: 42° 30′ 17″ North and 12° 15′ 60″ East. The main entrance to La tagliata delle Rocchette is the starting point, and from there, through woods and paths, you walk for about 400 metres until you reach the double uphill signpost in the trees. It is here that the Etruscan Pyramid unveils its grandeurwith its two flights of stairs leading up to the high altar, where the Etruscan priest perhaps once offered rites to the gods of the underworld.

Chinese imperial boat

The Chinese Imperial Boat Hidden in the Woods of the Cimini Mountains

Amidst the lush woods of Tuscia Viterbese, there is a place that has the power to transport the visitor to another space-time dimension. This is the Tenuta Sant'Egidio where the remains of the surprising Church of the Holy Trinity guard a precious Chinese Imperial marble boat.
Table of contents:
  1. Where the boat is located
  2. Love for China
  3. Extraordinary meeting
  4. The promise of conservation
  5. Brotherhood and respect between peoples

The Sant'Egidio Estate

La Tenuta Sant'Egidio is a private area of about 130 hectares on the north-eastern slope of Monte Cimino, which has become, by the owners' will, a educational forest. Walking through the woods of the estate you can admire monumental oak and beech trees, caves, springs and rocky outcrops. And then suddenly the remains of the walls of a church, the Holy Trinity, dating back to the 13th century and for centuries a hermitage of monks. Together with what remains of the ancient church a striking and alienating Chinese imperial boat in white marble. But how did this boat get here and why?

The Blessings and Love for China

The Chinese Imperial Boat came to Italy thanks to theItalian entrepreneur-philanthropist Eugenio Benedettifather of Azzurra Benedetti, the current president of the GEA Association from which the idea of the educational forest originated. Eugenio, nicknamed 'the new Marco Polo', was in love with the People's Republic of China and for many years travelled all over the country, contributing to its economic and cultural renaissance. One of his most famous operations was the opening of 34 marble quarries in the Hebei and Honan mountains, which are still operating today, from which he extracted one of the most beautiful marbles in the world. In 1965 Eugenio also had the opportunity to meet theLast Chinese Emperor Pu Yikey character in unravelling the mystery of the Viterbo imperial boat.

An extraordinary meeting

By now demoted to a simple citizen and appointed head of the Gardens of the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing, Pu Yi commissioned Eugenio to save and restore the boat built in 1865 to mark the 60th birthday of Empress Ci Xi, his mother. The boat is still moored on the Kunming River at Peking Palace. In ancient China, boats were true masterpieces of craftsmanshipused to transport precious goods along the rivers and canals of the vast Chinese empire. The imperial boat was a symbol of respect, power and elegance.

Restoration and Conservation

The conservation operation succeeded and was greatly appreciated by the Chinese government; Eugenio received a gift for his 75th birthday as a thank you for his work, 100 tonnes of white marble composed of 3,000 hand-carved and chiselled pieces. The material was used for build a 1:3 scale replica of Empress Ci Xi's boatas a sign of love from China to Italy. The imperial boat was then placed inside the estate, where Eugenio expressed his wish to be buried when his time comes.

Symbol of brotherhood between peoples

Thus the mystery is explained. The Chinese imperial boat on the Tenuta Sant'Egidio is more than just a monument; it is a homage to brotherhood between different culturesa symbol of peace and cooperation between peoples. But, above all, it is a representation of the love of a son for his mother and of the interconnection between seemingly distant cultures. The marble imperial boat in the heart of Tuscia Viterbese is a precious testimony to historyan indelible memory of great modern characters. A historical memory to be preserved and handed down to future generations.

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