The trulli of Alberobello represent a historical and cultural heritage of a great importance. They are the symbol of very ancient traditions and it isn’t easy to transmit tourists and future generations the values the convey.
The process through which visitors are told the meaning of the place they are exploring is called “interpretation“. This contributes to living an experience going beyond the simple act of looking at something new or unknown.
Interpretation has three main functions:
- educating: this is the base of interpretation; it helps visitors feel touched by the beauty and the complexity of the historical site they are visiting. It can be both formal, when the visit is part of a specific educational path (e.g. during a school excursion), or informal when learning is an individual choice and interpretation is the only source of information;
- entertaining (creating new experiences): by helping tourists have fun, comprehension can enhance the quality of visitors’ experience and, consequently, enlarge the benefits produced by the visits;
- making tourists more respectful of the places they visit.
In 1977 Freeman Tilden defined the six principles of a correct interpretation:
- any interpretation that does not somehow relate what is being displayed or described to something within the personality or experience of the visitor will be sterile;
- information, as such, is not Interpretation. Interpretation is revelation based upon information but successful interpretation must do more than present facts;
- interpretation is an art, which combines many arts. Any art is in some degree teachable;
- the chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation. Interpretation should stimulate people into a form of action;
- interpretation should aim to present a whole rather than a part. Interpretation is conceptual and should explain the relationships between things;
- interpretation addressed to children should not be a dilution of the presentation to adults, but should follow a fundamentally different approach. Different age groups have different needs and require different interpretive programs.
Interpretation in tourist-cultural field is a wide and complex subject, and there would be much more to say about it. Therefore, we will probably discuss again such topic in future, but now we would like to close this post with a couple of questions: in your opinion, is this concept known? If yes, do you think people can seize the potential value of such an empirical approach to the story of a heritage site?
Interpretation is a crucial moment of “exchange”, a special occasion where the encounter between visitors and residents turns into an actual constructive experience.