A return to Medieval times
Once again, Ma Kettle and I were off to soak in the atmosphere of yesteryear, in particular, to visit the site of the annual 'Nel Medioevo con Giulietta e Romeo', held on May 1st each year. This is a celebration of Romeo and Juliet, Montecchio Maggiore style.
The celebration consists of numerous clubs from around Europe who band together to set up various displays of day to day life from medieval times. For example, there were craftsmen of all all sorts who exhibit their specialty, ranging from weapons, blacksmithing, pottery, candles, soaps, linens, metalworking, tinsmithing, furniture, spices/herbs, head dress all the way to wooden toys such as swords, hatchets, shields for the kids.
We had been invited by our good friends Alfio and Graziella to accompany them to visit with their son Lorenzo, who routinely joins the festivities as camp cook, dressed in traditional garb while preparing authentic meals from that era.
Lorenzo also particpates in sword fighting displays, of which there were numerous clubs from all parts of Europe showing their particular style of combat. These modern warriors devote many hours to their training, exercise being one of the most important aspects. The stress applied to joints and calves is tremendous while sparring with very heavy metal swords, not to mention the awkward armour which is worn, both for authenticity and for safety sake.
Great efforts go into the preparation of these festivals, planning and organization skills are taxed to the max, ensuring that there is an appropriate mix of participants. Invitations are extended from the organizers, confirmations are sought and followed up, and sufficient space allocation is a must. Care must be taken to see that conflicting scheduling of festivals doesn't occur, and this requires continuous networking with all clubs throughout Europe.
Many members who participate, do so at their own personal expense. Often, the actual club which instructs the art of swordsmanship, doesn't participate, preferring to concentrate on teaching their craft, rather than becoming involved in the theatrical aspect. Members are encouraged to branch out on their own, banding together to offer their own areas of interest to tourists like us. Permission is given by the swordmaster to attend, but not to advertise the club name.
Each 'stall' or display is erected and equipped by personal funds. Lorenzo for example, buys wheels of cheese, barrels of wine, legs of pork, whole chickens etc., and feeds many of the attendees, cooking everything over open flame. His cook station is handcrafted with great detail paid to portability because everything must be transported from Padova every time and physically carried to the designated location.
The cook station is often the first erected, and the last to be taken down. The fire is always warm and inviting, and a drink and a hunk of cheese can often be found.
Costumes are purchased by each participant, swords and all forms of weaponery are specially hand crafted for combat purposes at great personal expense, as is a supply of linaments and bandages always in demand afterwards.
The displays of medieval times are ever evolving, and the bonds among various clubs are strengthening. The future is bright for these adventureous warriors if the spirit shown is any indication. I highly recommend tourists check to see if there are any festivals running during your visits to Europe. At present, I have no knowledge if there is a common web site to check, but I will add any information I find as I receive it.
To learn more about this particular festival, use the site www.faida.it which will tell you more (sorry, in Italian only, but they are currently working on an English link).
"Why bother visiting?"
Montecchio Maggiore is a neat little town, very prosperous looking, with a feeling of space, rather than the confined feel many other towns leave you with. It is known for industry and commerce (whatever that really means), but is widely noted for its fine wines such as Bardolino, Soave, Gambellera, and of course Valpollicella. It isn't normally placed high on a visitors list of places to see in Italy, but for me, that is a reason to go. Most of my locations are out of the normal viewing path.
The wide open spaces, the gently rolling lush landscape is captivating. Coming from Canada, we find the area to be gentle on the eyes, with numerous fields of vineyards, with every possible bit of space allocated to a few additional vines. I spent much of my time leaning against the tower ramparts, taking in the vast distances quietly eaten up by the mist as evening approached. If you're driving, and plan to either be enroute or returning from Venice and have Verona in your sights, take a breather, and spend an afternoon wandering about. I assume hotels would be cheaper too if overnighting is an option.
Montecchio Magiorre is only about 40 Kms east of Verona, and about twice that distance west from Venice. It is located slightly west of Vicenza by approximately ten-fifteen Kms.
We didn't see much of the town to be honest, other than standing beside the parking lot awaiting the arrival of transport to carry us to Casello Montecchio (parking is prohibited up the mountain), and dinner as we proceeded home.