In the little medieval town of Marostica every year at the end of May you can attend the Marostica cherry festival, la festa della ciliegia [chee -lee -EH -jah].
The Marostica cherry was the first Italian cherry to obtain the Igp (PGI) label (in 2002). This means that the peculiar characteristics of this product depend strictly from the geographic area in which it is produced (8 municipalities in the province of Vicenza). The igp disciplinary establish strict rules regulating the whole production system:
- cherry varieties to choose
- growing techniques
- defence against parasites (integrated or organic)
- disposal, before sale, of the fruits with insufficient size (the minimum diameter must be 2.3 cm). But they do not throw them away, they keep them for themselves 😉
The igp logo is a cherry with a rook. Why a chessboard piece? Well, in 1454, two knights asked Taddeo Parisio, governor of Marostica, to marry his daughter. To avoid a duel, the enlightened Parisio decided to organize a live chess game. The winner married the beautiful girl. The loser married the governor’s sister. On the wedding day the governor ordered to the farmers to plant cherry trees in the whole area to celebrate the event.
During the festival this event is remembered by electing the 2 girls who will assume the role of the two brides to be during the live chess game reenactment (in September, every 2 years. Next in September 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024 and so on).
I think there’s nothing as delicious as sweet dark red cherries. The only flaw is the bad tempered weather of this season. May has always been a rainy month but in the last years the weather variability got worse. That day I really wanted to see the cherries market so we decided to leave even if the forecast was not tempting.
Marostica Cherry Festival
The main piazza was full of stalls selling cherries and cherries-related items: jams, liquors, cakes, plus wicker baskets and hats. I guess… useful while picking cherries? It was beautiful to see some ladies weaving the wicker and chatting all along.
On the other side, they were selling plants including cherry trees of course. The plants vendor was directly under the most beautiful balcony of the town. I really appreciate people who put effort and spend time to create such lovely blooming displays (said by one who has no green thumb at all, I always say I have a dark thumb, purtroppo! – unfortunately). So: Complimenti, signora, e grazie! (My compliments, madam, and thank you! – cause I guess the balcony owner is a lady. But I could be wrong, and in this case I apologize). It is thanks to people like you that towns are more beautiful. I think it is the most photographed façade in Marostica, after the castle!
We stopped under the loggia to eat a panino con salame and a slice of cherry cake (similar to the Italian Easter cake called colomba, dove, but with cherry filling). Then we went to the lower Castle courtyard. In a corner there was a small archery practise area where a kid was trying to hit the target while the two most lively little girls I’ve ever seen disturbed him with shrieks, titters and above all their threatening balloon swords. I saw them stinging also innocent strangers. They were terrible but adorable scoundrels.
On the other side, the cherries market: lines of cherries crates with different shades of red displayed like shining and tempting pearls. You could buy one crate, pay, leave your name on a paper note and come back later to pick it up. The cherries sold outside were cheaper though, but not so beautifully ordered!
Unfortunately, we had just the time to buy some cherries and then a storm started. We decided to go back home, otherwise we would have to wait 3 hours for the girls election. If it would have been a sunny day we would have probably waited strolling, having a gelato at the café, taking pictures… but with such a horrible weather we preferred to leave. We had to stop along the road at some point cause we couldn’t see clearly for the heavy rain.
The next day I saw a picture of the newly elected girls on Facebook. Here it is:
As for me, now I’m home writing and pecking at some cherries sweet as honey. Who knows when I’ll be able to stop? Because, as the Italian adage says: “una ciliegia tira l’altra” [OO -nah chee -lee -EH -jah TEE -rah LAHL -trah], a cherry leads to another (cause they are addictive).