Giulio Votta in Santiago: On stilts to save street art

An initiatory journey, a journey between spirituality and art: this was the journey to Santiago of Giulio Votta, the eclectic artist from L’Aquila who traveled 160 km on stilts.

Giulio Votta is an extraordinary theater actor, a talented street artist, a complete actor who has made art his reason for living and that he decided to set out for Santiago taking with him the stilts with which he traveled all over Europe. It’s been 4 months since that trip, from that June 29thfrom that video in front of the square where the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostelabut the emotions are still alive and imprinted in the words of Giulio who has decided to make the journey, “To cleanse my soul after the sadness of two years of pandemic, after a black and dark period for a sector like that of the entertainment that has literally brought us to our knees. I took the stilts, packed my backpack and left, to find myself, to find answers to some questions “.
A tiring journey, because it is true that Giulio Votta has known the ancient art of stilts for decades, but the paths that lead to Santiago are often little traveled roads, a difficult path, even from an emotional, moving and demanding point of view,Not so much for the physical fatigue, as for the need to find myself again. On the way I crossed eyes, looks, hands and smiles that I will never forget. With me there were hundreds of people who were putting themselves to the test: those who had bicycles, those on foot, everyone in their backpack had emotions and feelings that they wanted to share with other travelers. I tried to understand how far I could go, trying to find in the effort the incentive to go on. I understood, during those 160 km, that one must always believe in one’s dreams, because in the end life has something beautiful in store for everyone ”.

Starting from L’Aquila on June 15, the journey on stilts began on 16, 160 km through the Galician section of the path, which began in Cebreiro and ended in Santiago de Compostela that the capital wanted to follow, almost day by day, to support it. , to share his emotions. “I will never forget the people I met and who supported me in those days. The stilts have provoked many smiles, not of mockery, but of approval and this gave me the impetus to go on, to continue despite the fatigue. There was my son at home cheering for me, my family, my old friends. I had many important meetings in those days that allowed me an extraordinary mental openness. During the breaks I found myself in the hostels with complete strangers with whom it was natural to open up, telling things of one’s own experience, even intimate ones, that you would not have told yourself in a natural way. I was amazed at myself, I looked like another person, because I am naturally reserved and very discreet ”. On June 29, the arrival in Santiago, together with thousands of boys and girls, men and women, from all over the world. “There are no words to describe the powerful energy of that place: different voices, united by the same motivation. At that moment the load of the journey appeared in front of me like the scene of a film and the fears, doubts, despair of the previous days disappeared. I saw myself as a child who was looking into life and I thought of my son who, in the innocence of his 8 years, had already told me that we would be back together, obviously on stilts, me and him “.

But what prompted him to give up everything for ten days and go to Santiago, the place par excellence where thousands of pilgrims from all over the world meet every day? And who is Giulio Votta?

Giulio Votta, 45, is unfortunately still a precarious teacher. His artistic career began at the age of 16, in L’Aquila, in the historic San Filippo theater run by the company of the Egg where he had enrolled in the course of acting techniques. He has a long and intense journey behind him during which he has collected many satisfactions, some doors slammed in the face in a bad way, but wherever he has gone, he has always been acclaimed by the public with affection. The real mess started with the circus Leris Colombaioni, one of the most famous and oldest circus families in Central Italy, a historic family of traditional clowns, well known all over the world as masters of the comic movement. The Colombaioni have worked with Italian sacred monsters such as Federico Fellini And Dario Foas well as with theater reformers such as Jerzy Grotowski or Eugenio Barba. “Ours was a circus without animals – remembers Giulio – there were the men and their professionalism. Magicians, acrobats, clowns… They made me work, they trained me, and in exchange I made my person available. I lived in a small caravan and followed them around Italy ”. After the circus, also a training period abroad: “I decided to move to Denmark, where I studied theater for three years, staying there for short periods with Barba’s company. They were difficult years, made of so much satisfaction, but it is still a hard job. Often you received only room and board in exchange and for me, who wanted to be independent, it was not easy. Now that I am 45 years old and have a son of 8, looking back I consider myself a lucky person and I would do it all over again, because apprenticeship and training are essential for an artist or any professional “. After Denmark, fundamental for his training, was also the meeting with the Proskenion Theater, a company that makes improvisation and research theater, based in Reggio Calabria. “I had this opportunity thanks to a collaboration with the University of L’Aquila, with the chair of theatrical studies directed by Ferdinando Taviani And Mirella Schino. Back in L’Aquila Giulio, after the earthquake of April 6, 2009, set up with Cecilia Cruciani the Casa del Teatro, a real point of reference with many activities, especially for the little ones. “Even if the collaboration with the Casa del Teatro ended a few years ago, it was a wonderful, educational, important experience that made me understand how fundamental it is to make children approach art from an early age. For me, art and theater are real, primordial, unique needs! “. Hand in hand with the theater, for Giulio there is also a great love for music. “Two almost complementary art forms, which go well together. I play different instruments, I collect them, because for me music is magic, it is therapy, it touches the strings of the soul ”.

Giulio Votta, the Camino de Santiago on stilts: “A journey between art and faith”

After so many sacrifices, after an earthquake, Covid closed cinemas and theaters, and for Giulio’s sector it was a real blow, a chasm difficult to fill, even now, two years later. It was therefore music and art that drove the decision to go to Santiago on stilts: but there was also the pandemic that created this need. “The work of artists is still very much mistreated today, especially when it comes to ‘street artists’ like me. Ours is seen as a ‘non-profession’ when in reality it is a full-fledged job. We have to fight a lot, every day, for our rights as human beings to be recognized: during two years of closures we have received nothing but alms and art is not begging. The theater, the street show is among the oldest arts in the world: already in the Middle Ages the old caravans of wanderers went to the squares to entertain, or to the courts to surround the parties. At the time, they traded their work for a sack of potatoes, a chicken, a flask of wine. Today the barter is no longer there and on our part there is still the desire, despite everything, to make the strings of the soul vibrate, to arouse emotions. Theater is presence, scents and colors, and one cannot do or look behind a screen. The telephone, the TV, can be a palliative, but not the decisive medicine. They were difficult years for everyone: the lack of work, the black crisis that hit the entertainment sector, forced thousands of people not to work for about 2 years. So I got on stilts to see the world, this world where it seemed for a while that there was no more room for me and my art… from another perspective. I started out animated by the deep support for all my colleagues who have not had the same luck as me to be able to continue to work relying on the salary of substitutes at school, when the theater, cinema and music have stopped. We artists have been considered second-class workers, useless and invalid citizens. I managed not to succumb because I had school: for many this was not the case. In the theater there are not only the actors, there are the costume designers, the operators, the technicians and the sound engineers: thousands of people who have had to cross their arms and after 2 years still cannot start again properly. I had to do it, I owed it to myself, I owed it to that little boy who at 16 timidly went up on the stage of the San Filippo Theater and I owed it to my 8-year-old son who needed me and my support, even financially. Our sector in these two years has had no help if not really ‘tips’ and it is not fair. We are first of all human beings, with dignity and above all we have the right to be able to work after years of study and apprenticeship ”.


Giulio Votta in Santiago: On stilts to save street art – Il Capoluogo