The highlight of my visit to Italy has been both thrilling and humbling due to the thoughtfulness and support of my Italian publisher, Marco Paganini from AltreVoci Edizioni, and Iefke Van Kampen, esteemed director of the Museo dell’Agro Veientano at Formello. The presentation of Il Velo Nuziale – the Italian edition of The Wedding Shroud. I think the cover is stunning!
I met Iefke ten years ago when she guided me around the remains of Veii and provided valuable assistance with my research. I was stunned when she asked if she could use my characters’ dialogue to voice her ‘Talking Heads’ audio visual exhibition which features beautiful votive heads found at Veii dating from the C6th to C4th/C3rd BCE. In doing so, she has managed to convey the famous story of the war between Rome and Veii in 406-396 BC for visitors to the museum.
I’ve long wished to return to Italy to see the installation in the high vaulted Salon of Roman Trophies (so named for the Renaissance freize on its walls). You can imagine my delight at seeing these sculptures light up and speak. Most of the votives match the era in which I set the trilogy which is extraordinary. The most valuable head in the collection is exquisite so I’m proud my Caecilia gives her new life. And the oldest votive dating to late C6th is my Etruscan mother character, Larthia. The ‘Storrs Saga’ is in both English and Italian which meant I could understand everything.
The presentation was fun. I was interviewed by Iefke who valiantly translated my words to a charming audience. And to add atmosphere to the proceedings, Andrea Oliverio (who first contacted me to suggest an Italian edition) arranged for reenactors to appear so I was overseen by an elegant Etruscan lady, Serena, (with gorgeous red shoes) and a very menacing Etruscan warrior called Christian! It’s just a pity Andrea couldn’t attend due to a family emergency.
The museum is housed in the wonderful Palazzo Chigi which dates back in parts to the 1200s when it was owned by the prestigious Orsini family. In the 1661 Cardinal Flavio Chigi acquired the palace and introduced a ‘Museum of Curiosities’ so it’s fitting that his residence should later become the place where the new museum has been established.