LIFE/Jordan Gowan: a change of pace in Tuscania


The sky is a white haze of a backdrop to the enormous flock of birds hovering above the valley. Flitting away from each other in a chaos of wings, the mass almost seems like one huge creature dancing its way through the sky. It’s a mesmerising sight, but the static sprawl of the valley itself is equally as attention-grabbing. Trees and small olive farms dot the landscape, while on the opposing hill the dual stone peaks of the churches of San Pietro and Santa Maria Maggiore tower over the valley. The opposition of the noisy, chaotic flock of birds and the quiet valley is strangely compelling, painting a scene not often seen in the busyness of Italian life. Then just as suddenly as they arrived, the mass of birds takes flight for another location, and the valley is still again.

I’m sitting on the medieval town wall of Tuscania, a beautifully quiet spot in the province of Viterbo, which is about half an hour away from the city itself. Like every small town in Italy, Tuscania has its own unique cultural and physical aspects. Dating back to Etruscan times, the town has an immense history to it which seems to be enclosed in the very stones of the streets. During medieval times, it fluctuated between being a free commune or conquered by marauding armies both from in and out of Italy. Around this period was when the town walls were built for the defence of the city.

Tuscania occupies a strategic position, like most other small Italian towns, from being built up on a hill overlooking the valley. Unlike Viterbo, its walls are lot smaller and the towers a lot closer together, giving it a completely different look from many other places I’ve visited. In these times of peace though, the wall serves more as an attraction than a line of defence. From the grassy park which leads up to the low wall, the sprawl of the valley already mentioned is a great place to just sit and soak up some midday sunshine. Around me in the park, local families play with their children or simply walk through on their own business, but everyone wears an enormous smile on their faces. With the valley spread out in front of them like a watercolour painting, it’s not hard to see why.

To me, Tuscania felt like a breath of fresh air. It may have not been the most happening place I’ve encountered in Italy, but there was a certain charm to that. In the middle of the busy lifestyle that studying abroad brings, it was incredible to just sit back, relax, and enjoy Italy for what it is for a moment instead of running onto the next thing. Sometimes it’s easy to glaze over the little things which makes this country what it is in the madness of travelling to as many places as you can. Its then when you need a spot like Tuscania to change your pace, and to teach you to use time in a better, more Italian way. One where stopping to talk to friends isn’t a distraction from your destination but a reason to go out at all, one where you can take your time over a meal, one where you can learn as slowly or quickly as you want. Maybe studying abroad then isn’t about the destinations so much as it’s about the journey, and learning to appreciate what’s right in front of your eyes.

Hi everyone! I am a musician, surfer, writer and traveler from Palmerston North, New Zealand. I study Italian and photography at Universita delgi Studia Tuscia. In my free time I enjoy listening to music, playing the guitar and travelling around Italy and wider Europe. For more of my writing please visit

Ciao a tutti! Sono un musicista, surfer, scrittore e viaggiatore di Palmerston North in Nuova Zelanda. Studio Italiano e fotografia all’Università degli Studi della Tuscia. Nel mio tempo libero, mi piace ascoltare musica, suonare la chitarra e viaggiare per l’Italia e l’Europa. Per maggiori informazioni su quello che scrivo, potete visitare la mia pagina