The historic hilltowns of Italy have survived wars, sieges, and earthquakes for centuries but they are now facing their biggest threat: economic survival. There are almost daily reports of depopulation and decline in hilltowns all over Italy. Some have resorted to selling houses for one euro to encourage new settlement or even paying people to come and live in their abandoned houses. The press has called them “ghost towns”. The scenic hilltop setting and stout walls that have defended the local population over centuries are now more likely to be viewed as obstacles to modern development. This exhibition looks at one example of a hilltown to explore both its rich cultural heritage and the challenges inherent in realizing its potential. 

In the fall of 2019, the graduate students in Sustainable Cultural Heritage carried out a community heritage project in Amelia in Umbria. They explored the unique tangible and intangible culture of the town. They looked at how its history has shaped the town, the local economy, the culture, but above all, the people. Amelia has a distinct culture. Its most imposing ancient monument, the polygonal walls, predate the Romans. It has produced one of the most impressive bronze statues of the Roman period, and in the period of the Renaissance it had so many aristocratic families that today there are fourteen extant Renaissance palaces in the town. But this heritage can also be a heavy burden to maintain. What is the future for historic towns such as Amelia? How will they adapt and still retain their distinctive identity?  

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