If only we could take the recipe of Savičenta’s development and transfer it to any other destination.
I recently came back from delivering an IE Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) course in the Istrian town of Svetvinčenat or Savičenta (don’t ask how can it have two names, long story… it actually has three!). Every time I visit this town, I can’t stop thinking about it for days. I remain under impressions of admiration and deep respect for everything they have done there to revitalise the county and promote its heritage. Since the CIG training is often an emotional rollercoaster for all, trainer included, you can only imagine that my feelings are even stronger this time. That’s why I decided to share my appreciation with IE members through this article.
What exactly happened there? The once abandoned Morosini-Grimani Castle is now an innovative exhibition area and a conference centre, with all sorts of events, escape-the-castle gamified experience, an evening tour, to name just a few parts of its offer. There is another visitor centre, House of Mare the Witch, dedicated to the story of the last woman burned for witchcraft in the region of Istria, and her relatives from local folklore. There is a VR tour of the town, dedicated guides, re-enactors, numerous festivals… Not to mention businesses! Eco-bira (that’s beer in Istrian dialect), Kampanjola, a medieval-themed park Sanc Michael, luxurious villas, fancy food producers… All of this within a county with only around 2,000 inhabitants spread throughout around 40 villages.
Not all of the projects were intentionally interpretive. Yet the common cause, stewardship of heritage, sharing the appreciation of local culture with visitors are there. The importance of interpretation is well acknowledged, too. Over time, various workshops on heritage interpretation for local stakeholders took place. The First Croatian National Forum for Heritage Interpretation happened right there a few months ago.
The recent CIG training course is another very indicative example of the way the town is building its capacities. They organised it very professionally, with trust in Interpret Europe’s expertise, which helped the smooth execution of the training. The participants came from public institutions and local attractions, and they all took their tasks very seriously. I am still completely stunned to observe how a relatively small county attracted top-notch employees who are all extremely professional, creative, efficient, and supportive as a collective. As you can imagine, the organisation of the training was a joint effort of the leading organiser – the Tourism Board of Svetvinčenat County, with the great support of Svetvinčenat County and the Grimani-Morosini Castle crew.
We all read a lot about community management, boosting creativity, understanding the value of heritage. Still, it’s hard to find working self-sustainable examples. For Savičenta, it took years, it took several projects, including a major EU-funded project, KulTERRA, to get there. After all that time and effort, Savičenta is living proof that development based on local heritage is not just a myth. As everywhere, things didn’t always go smoothly. There had to be some unstoppable and visionary enthusiasts, tons of work, perfect planning, dozens of serious collaborations. I certainly don’t know what exactly it took. Still, I am only one out of many people in Croatia who point to Savičenta as one of the best examples of community management strongly interconnected to heritage appreciation and presentation. We can now all enjoy the fruit of their labour. Their achievements seem like a utopia. It’s a great example we can all learn from. But don’t even bother to try to repeat it step by step. Their perfect mix of ingredients works only in Savičenta’s magical cauldron, which could be a leftover from Mare the witch herself.
Iva Silla is the author of Secret Zagreb walking tours (www.secret-zagreb.com) and the Croatia Underrated podcast (www.croatiaunderrated.com). She is an experienced Interpret Europe Certified Interpretive Trainer. Contact her at: [email protected].
Contact the Tourism Board of Svetvinčenat for more info about the destination: [email protected].
To cite this article: Silla, Iva (2021) ‘Magical cauldron of Savičenta’ in Interpret Europe Newsletter 4-2021, pg.11-12