NEW RESEARCH STARTS IN ‘SAN FRANCESCO’ ITALY

August 18th 2019 I have finally reached the tip of Italy. I am staying at a free camper stop in the aptly named ‘San Francesco’ an hour north of Venice in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region which borders Austria and Slovenia. From here I am cataloguing the total LFTT Library Travel books that reference all of Italy and planning my route through the country to collect new video material over the coming months relating to these books. Unfortunately a lot of material already gathered from previous travels is not easily imported into the Phd framework, as its random nature makes it difficult to class as ‘data’ for research purposes. However the immersive nature of this new research, now designing and planning en-route instead of post hoc at home in the studio, is pretty exciting. Also I can delve much deeper as my time is now given over solely to this (apart from daily obligations such as cleaning and cooking!).

I chose Italy as it is the birth place of St Francis, being the libraries original reference point as a Franciscan Library. But from studying the total references via The LFTT map its interesting that actually the Franciscan pilgrimage sites are only mentioned in any detail by one book – ‘The Pilgrims Guide to Franciscan Italy’ by Peter F. Anson (1927).

Also of note is the high contrast between the ‘retreat’ sites highlighted in this book and the other sites in Italy which received the highest concentration of references, namely Rome, Florence and Turin. This is maybe not so surprising as Rome, Florence and Turin are amongst Italy’s major cities and contain a high percentage of the general population. In contrast the most important pilgrim sites mentioned by Anson; La Verna (Chiusi Della Verna), Assisi and Rieti are all mountainous, sparsely populated regions. La Verna is the highest point at 960 metres above sea level, and has only 20 inhabitants per square kilometre, in contrast to Turins 6,800. I am intrigued by St Francis’ nomadic search for ‘a solitary and secret place’… ‘a spot of the earth which induces one to deep ponderings’. There are many accounts of him simply carving out a hole in a rock in some barely accessible precipice! I hope my camper van is up for the task of accessing some of these nether regions…

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