There are those times that technology can drive you crazy. We have all been there — the remote won't work, the TV needs a firmware upgrade, our iPhone crashes. We know that technology is not a perfect science. Then, there are those moments when technology is found in unexpected places, and it transforms you.
That is precisely what happened while strolling in the small town of Ravello, near the end of my recent 11-day, five-city trip to Italy.
Italy was breathtaking, delicious, exhilarating, and exhausting. We visited Venice, Florence, and Rome. The last three days were spent on the Amalfi coast, a picturesque postcard of a place. And even though our time spent was during early October, we experienced perfect weather.
During our second day on the coast, we decided to explore the city of Ravello. This resort town is set almost 1,000 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea and is home to iconic cliff-side gardens and some stray cats. After meandering about and enjoying another outstanding meal, we entered the town square to come upon projection on some of the exterior buildings with an Italian phase “Mille anni di Magia,” which we later learned to be “Thousand Years of Magic.”
Pulled to the gate by my curiosity the guard explained in English (because so many Italians speak English) that there was a 40-minute show about to begin for 7 euros per person. I pleaded with my companions to join me, and although the temperatures had started to drop, they agreed. We were given headsets for a silver media player the size of a lighter and told not to press the red button until told.
It turns out that these were MP3 players with the English translation timed to the show! Simple and brilliant. When the show began, there was a countdown to push the button to make sure we were synced correctly to the ongoing production.
Now standing in the inky dark beginning to shiver, I worried about what I had convinced my crew to watch. Then the show began. A man appeared, glowing, in a doorway, and a story began to unfold. It was the story of Villa Rufolo told by the ghost of Lorenzo Rufolo. He “returns to recover the scene and above all returns to rule what was his extraordinary home.”
The first experience was projection done quite well and sets the scene for the rest of the show. We moved to five locations within the garden wall throughout the 40-minute event. My favorites were the Tower of Major shown here.
And the garden, which overlooks the rest of the coast. (Yes, those are the sparkling lights of other towns on the coast far below on the left of your screen!)
You can see that besides the video mapping, the show features audio technology (including some thumping subwoofers!), lasers, waterfalls, and even some fog machines to tell the story. These designs were inspired by the likes of E. M. Foster (novelist), Andre Gide (author), Paul Valery (poet and philosopher), Tennessee Williams (playwright), Truman Capote (novelist), Gore Vidal (writer), Sir Francis Nevile Reid (Godfather of Ravello), as well as the visions of M. C. Escher (graphic artist) who stayed in Ravello.
The system, organized by the Ravello Foundation, was put in place in 2014 and was updated, rethought, and adapted this year for the 2.0 launch September 16 and will entertain audiences through October 22. How lucky for us to be in the right place and right time.
The journey ended at the foot of the newly restored facades with a laser light show paired with projection.
As we made our way out and to the bus that promised another adventure full of switchbacks (everyone should ride a bus in the Amalfi Coast at least once — what an experience!) we were stopped by the staff and interviewed for their Facebook page, which amused us all.
That evening of Disney-worthy tech will forever be etched in my mind. It was an excellent synergy of history and technology that will make the artist and writers of Ravello immortal. It made me fall in love with technology all over again.
See below for some delightful quotes from the minds mentioned above:
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” —EM Forster
“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” —Andre Gide
“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” —Paul Valery
“What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains.” —Tennessee Williams
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” —Truman Capote
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” —Gore Vidal