A neolithic village on the banks of river Trebia- discovering Travo’s Archaeological Park

What was life in Val Trebbia like in the neolithic? Maria Maffi,  head of Travo’s Archaeological Park tells the story of the neolithic settlement of S. Andrea in Travo and explains how the project for the park started. 

How was Travo’s Archaeological Park born? 

Travo’s Archaeological Park  opened in  2006 but in truth its roots are much older. As of the 1980s in fact, the local archaeological group  La Minerva started conducting research, promoting Val Trebbia’s archaeological heritagea and mapping important prehistoric sites. In 1997 the organisation contributed to the construction of the  Museo Civico, which displays the findings retrieved at the sites and diggings. In those years a dream started to come to our minds: to build an outdoor museum on the site of the neolithic village of S.Andrea, discovered in 1981. Many years have passed and finally the Park was inaugurated in 2006, thanks to the commitment of the archaeological department, the municipality of Travo, Fondazione Piacenza e Vigevano, the Region of  Emilia and the province of Piacenza. Last but not least, the project came to life thanks to the volunteers of the Archaeological Group who never stopped believing in our plans.

Who is part of the staff of the Archaeological Park and what is their link to  Val Trebbia? 

The Park’s staff is composed of professional archaeologists and restoration experts, who were originally members of La Minerva and who gathered in the Archeotravo social cooperative in order to manage both the Park and the museum. I am native of  Val Trebbia, precisely I come from Rivergaro, while the other staff members are from the Piacenza area, but have been regularly spending a lot of time in Travo in the past ten years.

The digging site at the S. Andrea settlement.

How did the locals welcome your initiative?

The local population always looked at what was going on on the river banks with a bit of distance and skepticism: this involves the digging of the site as well as the construction of the Park. It must be noted though, that involving local schools in our educational activities has considerably contributed to bring us closer to the local population.

Who are your visitors and which particular target groups would you like to involve more?

Our usual visitors are school pupils, from elementary to secondary and high schools. Kindergartens have also been involved since a couple of years.Saturdays and Sundays are for families, not just those from Piacenza and surroundings but we are noticing an increase in the number of visitors coming from further away.

What were the hardest challenges you had to face during the launching of the project and once the Park opened?

Surely conservation represents the most difficult challenge for us: you need to preserve these very old structures an outdoor environment and the second biggest challenge is promoting and financing such an organisation without external funding.

Inside one of the reconstructed neolithic huts at Travo’s Archaeological Park

What’s the added value the Park brings to Val Trebbia?
It surely improves the awareness of the valley’s cultural heritage and the historical knowledge of the area. Furthermore it offers one more tourist attraction for the valley.

Is there a particular story you hold particularly dear?

My story for sure: I began my archaeological “career” at the digs in Travo where I worked as a volunteer in 1995: since then I was enchanted by this place, to the extent that I changed my study path and decided to become an archaeologist.  

What was life in Val Trebbia like in the neolithic, according to what has been found at the site?
It must have been very hard: grow your crops with tiny wooden tools, using stone axes to cut down trees, trying to find shelter from the harsh weather and resist the might of nature only with your own strenght…I think it was not easy at all, but for us modern men all of this is really fascinating.

The archaeological museum, inaugurated in 1997, is located at Travo’s Castle. 

Did you ever consider offering educational activities for local schools and exchange programs with schools abroad? 
As of last year we offer educational projects financed by Comunità Montana for the whole area from Travo to Ottone, from kindergartens to secondary schools. “La Cultura del Terittorio” is quite an ambitious project which will end in June with a celebration bringing together all the children and their families involved in the activities, to present the outcomes of the works we have focused on during the school year. We activated already exchange programs with university students from France who visit Travo in the summer to take part in the digs at S. Andrea.

What about your future projects?
We always have many projects for the future: our priority is the digs, we want to continue digging and publish an archaeological anthology soon. Then we want the Park to gain an ever increasing reach because one of our core values is its sustainability and user accessibility which could expand to a diversified audience, from experts to supporters and members of the general audience. We want the Park’s value to be understood and recognized as a model to promote the landscape and the local heritage through an educational offer which could lead to more culture and finally tourism.

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