Marostica is a little town in the province of Vicenza, mostly known for its delicious cherries (Festival in May) and the live chess game (September every 2 years in even-numbered years).
The first impact was wonderful. I was still in the car. We were approaching Marostica and, from the distance, I could distinctly see the medieval walls climbing the hill. Bellissimo! The walls were built starting from 1372 by Cansignorio della Scala, lord of Verona. They are about 1.800 meters long, with a maximun height of 12 meters and provided with 24 towers.
First of all, we decided to go (by car) directly to the upper Castle (XIV century). Starting from the bottom of the hill, the road goes up sinuous, but it’s not a long journey, on the contrary! Just 7 minutes. The Castle was built by the Lords of Verona and then already abandoned in 1587 after the damages suffered during the Cambrai war. Now you can only see its walls, a door and a bastion. On one side there’s a restaurant. The place is worth the detour mostly because of the spectacular view.
We then came back and parked in a small lot along via Rimembranze (I love this word! It is not used any more, but you can find it in ancient poems. Quite similar to the English verb “remember”, it is plural and it means “memories, recollections” and in my opinion it has a sweet and melancholic sound in Italian. Ah, for the record, we now say ricordi [ree -KOHR- dee]). The parking lot is adjacent to Porta Breganze, one of the town Doors. There our attention was captured by an ancient palace just next to the Door. It displayed a banner on its main facade:
I wanted to give aesthetic and functional dignity to this palace in order to celebrate its centennial (1912-2012). The superintendence said YES, but then it took 1 year for the municipal offices in charge to say NO. This corner of Porta Breganzina, which is one of the symbols of Marostica, will remain this way. The property apologizes to the citizens and guests and hopes for understanding.
There’s only one thing that came to my mind: WHY?? It’s a shame. Only in Italy! the palace was really beautiful. It would be nice to see it properly restored. I hope that the thing can be fixed.
We walked under the Porta and in a few minutes we reached the main square, piazza Castello: a spacious square, refined ancient palaces with convenient arcades, several restaurants and cafés overlooking it on the long sides, and then, on the short sides: the medieval Doglione Palace (former armoury and chancellery, now bank) with its clock tower and the Inferior Castle (XIV, built by the Scaliger), once dwelling of the governor, now seat of Tourist Office, town council and Chess Game Museum.
In the middle of the square, in addition to the omnipresent Venetian lion column (every Venetian city has one!), and the Scaliger symbol (a ladder, because Scala means ladder), you can see the famous chess board formed by marble paving. The live Chess Game takes place every 2 years (September, even numbered years) to re-enact a 1454 episode: two noblemen were in love with the beautiful daughter of the Castle Lord, Lionora. The Lord ordered them to solve the problem over a game of chess instead of a bloody duel. I won’t say anything more cause I’d really like to attend the game this year. If so, I’ll write another post entirely dedicated to the game. If you’re eager to play, black and white plastic chess pawns are available every day from 8 am to 8 pm in a cart under the Doglione arcades.
Go beyond the Doglione palace and enter via S. Antonio (you’ll see a brown sign: sentiero panoramico, meaning panoramic path). It’s a beautiful, elegant street leading to the Saint Anthony the Abbot Church (XIV – altarpiece by Jacopo da Ponte called Il Bassano, Saint Paul’s sermon in Athens), to the baroque Carmini Church (XVII) and to a small yard displaying an Alpine troopers memorial.
You can now access the steep path (restored stone by stone by the Marostica City Walls Association) to the Upper Castle (a 20-30 minutes path among olive trees and enjoying a wonderful view – comfortable shoes are mandatory) or explore the adjacent lanes. We took via Rialto following the walls layout and discovering some idyllic corners and ending up at the Bassano Door. At this point we returned to the main piazza and stopped for lunch at a local trattoria at a stone’s throw form the lower Castle and the Vicenza Door. (Soon I’ll publish my post about Osteria Madonnetta).
After lunch, sated and happy, we then braved the visit to the lower Castle. It was quite interesting. While the rooms in the Mastio (fortified tower) have no furniture and no paintings (so there’s basically no point in going up 7 floors. Listen to me, don’t do that!), the rooms on the first floor are worth a visit: nice XV century furniture, some geometric and floral frescoes, 1950s sketches for the Chess Game and then a hall completely dedicated to the match costumes and equipments. I loved the towers!
My husband: “Where are the puppet horses?” Me: “Probably there are no puppet horses here because they use real horses during the game” Matteo: “Ah, impossible! How could they remain calm throughout the game!”. He wouldn’t believe me. But then we searched for some pictures of the match and I was right, the horses are real.
Along the open loggia you may notice a bust statue: the man portrayed is Prospero Alpini, physician and botanist who first brought coffee to Venice. If you want to learn more, you can read my post regarding the history of coffee. The highlight of the visit is the view from the walkway. The merlons of the battlements are guelph (rectangular shape) for the South part and ghibelline (swallow-tailed form) for the North part (towards the hill). I haven’t found out why. Still on the north side you can see the bell once used to summon the town council members. Ehm, I confess: I rang it! I couldn’t resist. No one came though 🙂
Non vedo l’ora to go back in Marostica!
In conclusion I really enjoyed my day in Marostica. Hence “non vedo l’ora” (about that, read my post about some Italian idioms) to go there again during the cherries festival in May and possibly also during the chess game in September! Would the live chess game be an interesting subject for you to read?