The world in our valley |

The world in our valley

Cassie Pence

VAIL – Dr. Paolo Visona had no idea what awaited him underneath a large tract of land on a hill under an olive grove in Southern Italy. But as luck would have it, the archeologist uncovered a previously unknown city with links to some of ancient history’s most notorious chapters: Hannibal, the Second Punic War and Rome’s victory over Carthage.It’s just all in a day’s work for a world adventurer.”I wanted to be an archeologist since I was 8 years old. I knew what I was going to do when I was kid because I was interested in discovery and exploration,” said Visona. “Every human being has within themselves a deep desire to find out about our past and particularly about the civilizations that have helped to form our own.”Discovering Contra da Mella, the ancient city of Mamertion, is Visona’s claim to fame. It took him roughly 20 years. He will share the process of his expedition’s discovery at the Vail Library March 3 as part of the Vail Symposium’s Unlimited Adventure series. The series, in partnership with the Vail Library, will host six thrill-seekers to tell their tales from around the world. “I will show you the most interesting finds, evidence for what we think is a major city, why it was wealthy and what were the trade and political connections that the people who settled there had with those that lived in the area,” said Visona. “I want people to know that even today, in 2005, it’s possible for archeologists to find previously unknown cities and put them on the map of the ancient world. There are probably dozens, if not more, that need to be discovered.”

The symposium’s Unlimited Adventure Series is both an outlet for vicarious living and a resource for people aspiring to adventure. With a fairly intimate setting, audience members can ask questions and find out just how they too can attain their risk-taking dreams.”We all live here because we’re interested in adventure. This program is free and so many different kinds of people come to these. It’s very inter-generational,” said Ebby Pinson, president of the symposium.Peter Heller, author of the best-selling adventure book “Hell or High Water,” will lead audience members down the Tsangpo Gorge in southeastern Tibet, where he’s spent time kayaking the river that has lured explorers and adventurers since its discovery. In partnership with Verbatim Booksellers, the event takes place at Donovan Park Pavilion at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 3. “These adventurers are so passionate about what they do. I’ve learned from this series why they’re willing to take risks,” said Pinson.Other world voyagers that will speak include Jean Pavillard, a mountain guide who will discuss his South America explorations; Stan Havlick, who biked through Africa and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro; Glenn Porzak, who’s summated the highest peak in all seven continents; and Polly Letofsky, who walked around the world for cancer. The whole adventure series benefits cancer awareness programs.The Vail Symposium, a 34-year-old grass-roots nonprofit organization, specializes in bringing diverse and thought-provoking programs to the Vail Valley that aim to enhance the intellectual and cultural quality of life here.”It’s always challenging creating a program that will appeal to an eclectic mix of people. I’m always pushing myself to create a program that is better than last time,” said Pinson. “I’ve learned people like short programs at convenient times, so I started to develop shorter events.”

Notables and Quotables replaces Festival of WordsThe symposium has canceled their literary series Festival of Words this winter due to lack of attendance in years past.”Ticket sales just didn’t warrant the amount of effort and expense of the event. Notables and Quotables is a step in keeping Festival of words,” said Pinson, who is very discouraged about the cancellation.Mitch Albom, author of New York Times bestsellers “The Five People You Meet in Heaven and “Tuesdays With Morrie,” will be the first speaker in the series. Instead of an all-day event, like the Festival of Words, Notables and Quotables will take place in the evening for just a couple of hours.”It’s interesting to hear about the author’s experience, how he got started writing, his influences and how long it takes him to write a book,” said Pinson, who recommends reading “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” which is fairly short, before the talk. Verbatim and Bookworms in Edwards will be selling the books and proceeds go toward the Vail Valley Medical Center.The series will host four to five people through the year, and the symposium is currently working on the schedule. She wants to expand Notables and Quotables beyond the literary world and invite other recognizable names, like actors.

Pinson has added one event for a literary series, a valley read of “Steel Magnolias.” Book clubs are invited to discuss the play’s elements of humor and tragedy with Vail Mountain School English teacher Laurie Greco in advance to the performance at the Vilar Center. Topics on the brainThe symposium has chosen four to five world societal subjects for its Hot Topics series that garner deeper discussions. “Greg Mortenson’s topic is very interesting. He’s saying that it isn’t through our guns that we can combat terrorism, but it’s by educating and building nations, one school at a time,” said Pinson.Mortenson is the founder and director of Central Asia Institute, and he will speak at the Cordillera Valley Club 5:30-7 p.m. Feb. 8. The Hot Topics series is a value to our society, said Pinson, because it educates people on matters that are pressing and effect everyone. David Baron, correspondent for NPR, will explore the dangerous myth of peaceful co-existence in a modern wilderness, and Ambassador Philip Wilcox, Jr. will discuss peace for Israel and Palestine.

Toronto Film Circuit kicks off symposium’s winter lineupThree films from the Toronto Film Circuit will start off the symposium’s winter lineup: “Soft Shell Man,” “Enduring Love,” and “In This World.” Denver Film Critic Walter Chaw will once again moderate, giving his critical film insights.”A critic, a good one, can help guide an individual through their own feelings about a movie. ‘I agree with him’ or ‘I don’t,’ but it begins to clarify from the point of view of someone who sees something like 450 films a year, what it is about a film that might work or might not,” said Chaw.Chaw said “Enduring Love,” a dark film about obsession, stars an extremely accomplished British cast, Rhys Ifans and Samantha Morton. “I would send them to go see “In This World.” It addresses issues of documentary versus fiction and it’s directed by one of the best directors that no one’s ever heard of before, Michael Winterbottom.All three films are at the Vilar Center, starting Monday at 7 p.m.

For more information on the Vail Symposium or a complete winter schedule, call 476-0954 or log on and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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