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July 16, 2012

Reflections on a field trip to Narni

by Sally Johnson, Yale University 2012

It seems a wonder that day-to-day modern life continues amidst the historical architecture and culture of Narni. Layers of history are evident along every street: from buildings dating back several centuries to residences assembled from the remnants of older structures to modern Gelateria. While the historic sites—especially the churches—were striking, what was most inspiring was the mere fact that present day-to-day life thrives in the town while still maintaining enormous respect for the past.

From my experience, it seems that Narni preserves its cultural heritage by creating an easily accessible while simultaneously well-secured sightseeing district. Present-day town life itself takes place within the historic center; modern shops and restaurants line the cobbled piazza, citizens walk the pathways, and cars zoom down the streets. Children even play on the playground built along the ancient wall! At the same time, the town also houses a historic museum showcasing its treasures, and amidst the hustle and bustle (or shuttered quiet of siesta) one can descend underground for a tour of the chambers utilized by the Spanish Inquisition.

Narni takes advantage of the tourist industry, revenue from which can further aid in the protection of the sites and ensure its preservation for the future, while at the same time open up the rich history of the town to the public. From my day-trip experience, it seems that this can be a feasible and productive way to both protect and engage with cultural heritage.