Over the past few years I have poured a lot of passion into discovering hotspots of artistic innovation around the globe. I've almost always been a city dweller, but a nine-month period in a university village in California saw me appreciate smaller communities and made me realise that a place didn't have to be conservative and small-minded just because it didn't fit into the city mould.
It was with a great deal of interest that I went about learning about progressive small towns - the ones I immediately think of are Santa Cruz & Berkeley in California, Boulder in Colorado, Brighton in the UK, Sitges in Spain and Byron Bay & Lismore in Australia. I have only visited the Cali towns (briefly), plus Byron Bay... I don't think driving through Lismore really counts. The odd place out is Nimbin, Australia, an art-obsessed village where marijuana may as well be legal (just don't smoke it in front of the police, the locals will tell you).
I treasured the discovery of each of these, opening as they have, new worlds of possibility over the years. For as much as I love cities, the prospect of the laid-back atmosphere and friendly vibes, a small, familiar and walkable locus... these things animate and soothe me in equal turns, an alternate and just as interesting mode of living. (It was no surprise that, longing for some peace of mind, I found myself gravitating to small towns throughout my trips in Thailand... alas, there is no 'bohemian paradise' (that I know of) in the Land of Smiles, so I made do with other attractions.)
It is my pleasure to have learned of a village in Italy, not far from Rome, which is almost exclusively inhabited by creative, unconventional types, today. You can read about it by the travel writer who put it on the international version of the Italian map, David Farley, here. I then recommend reading his story of how the article he wrote for the New York Times impacted Calcata, and his relationship with it here.
Calcata is so emerging a tourist attraction that it is not yet in Lonely Planet, but tourists are starting to drip in, and next time I find myself in Italy, it will be one of my #1 attractions... who knows, maybe I'll find a postmodern eccentric or two to hang out with! ;oD