The other day we took the mountain road from Bassano and stopped off for a delicious lunch at another of our favourite restaurants, La Rosina.
Then we drove down to Marostica for a stroll around this richly historic town. It’s only a half hour drive from Vicenza and ten minutes on the lower road from Bassano. The ancient wall encircles the fort at the top and reaches its arms down as if it were hugging the small city at the foot of the hill.
The piazza below is dominated by the lower castle where every other year, in September, they play a “live” game of chess. The next one will be in 2014.
The chess match is based on a story in which Two noblemen, Renaldo D’Anganaro and Vieri da Vallanora, fell in love with the beautiful Lionora, daughter of the local lord, Taddeo Parisio. As was the custom at that time, they challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of Lionora. The Lord of Marostica, not wanting to make an enemy of either suitor or lose them in a duel, forbade the encounter. Instead he decreed that the two rivals would play a chess game, and the winner would have the hand of Lionora. The loser of the chess game would also join the family, through marrying her younger sister, Oldrada. During the play the game takes place on the square in front of the Lower Castle with supporters carrying the noble ensigns of Whites and Blacks, in the presence of the Lord, his noble daughter, the Lords of Angarano and Vallonara, the court and the entire town population. The Lord also decides the challenge would be honoured by an exhibition of armed men, foot-soldiers and knights, with fireworks and dances and music.
I always used to feel sorry for Oldrada, who got the loser and hoped she secretly loved him best, then I was disappointed when I found out this romantic tale has nothing to do with factual history and the chess square in Marostica was built after the Second World War to enact a play written by the comedy writer Vucetich Mirko. Even so, the match has made Marostica famous and the re-enactment brings to life 15th Century Italy, the period in which I have set my novel, Lady of Asolo. I say to myself it might have been based on some truth and, if not, “non importa”.
Marostica is also celebrated for its cherries and we bought a bowl- full to take home with us. Life is so dolce vita here in Italy …