Chess and Cherries in Marostica

The other day we took the mountain road from Bassano and stopped off for a delicious lunch at another of our favourite restaurants, La RosinaLa Rosina 1

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.

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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.

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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 …

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Asolando

‘Asolando’. The word was coined by the English poet Robert Browning (see my post of  4th February), who named his last volume of poetry after the town of Asolo. I like to think I am “asolando” literally “doing Asolo” when I visit my favourite town and, yesterday evening, Victor and I went for a stroll around the Piazza Garibaldi before indulging in some excellent food and drink. In the car-park we took a picture of the Roman aqueduct, La Bot,

IMG_0262dug deep into the rock of the hillside, which still supplies the water feeding the fountain in the middle of the square. IMG_0002Gazing to the northeast, we could see the outline of the Fort (see my post of 16th February).

IMG_0265We decided not to walk up the steep path behind, reserving our energy for another visit earlier in the day.

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Instead, we strolled down to the Palazzo della Ragione, with remains of ancient frescoes on the external walls of its loggia, where justice was administered when Asolo belonged to the Venetian Republic.

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This building would have been familiar to the characters in my work in progress. We could see the marks from where some of the memorial tablets were removed after the French occupation under Napoleon. To the left of the loggia we looked towards the cathedral, whose present façade (1889) rests against the ancient Romanesque one.

IMG_0278Inside is a baptismal font, a gift from Caterina Cornaro, the “lady” in my novel, to the people of Asolo. From the terrace in front of the church there’s  a clear view across the plain towards Padova and the distant Euganean Hills.

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Thirsty and hungry, we headed for the Birreria Epoca and plonked ourselves down on the outside terrace.

We ordered a birra bionda and a birra bianca IMG_0288

with olive ascolane IMG_0290

then shared an insalatonaIMG_0293 and spaghetti all’aglio, olio e peperoncino

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A visit to the Caffè CentraleIMG_0270

and a gelatoIMG_0294 Why not? Perchè no?