Castles, castles everywhere

No posts for a few days and here’s why. In Venice our internet went out Thursday afternoon and never returned. Friday morning we packed up and climbed over the one bridge between us and the best vaporetto to get us to the train station. Riding in the crowded boat with our luggage next to a young mother with her two kids and lots of tourists, I experienced my usual sadness about leaving my favorite city. There is nowhere like Venezia and a part of my heart responds to it every time I am there just as it did the first time I stepped out of the train station in 1987.

Arriving in Vicenza for the weekend we met up with friends Meike and Davide and their son Jordan. Meike is a young woman I have known since her teen years in San Francisco. Her Mother and I were in a book group together for many years and we all belonged to Or Shalom, the very progressive synagogue in town. She even babysat for Andy and Ben a few times. Meike met Davide while an undergraduate studying at the University of Padua and for them, the relationship has worked out for the long term. Settling in Vicenza, having a baby, buying a house all the life highlights of any young couple, but in Italian. They are hosting us in a delightfully helpful way and we appreciate it immensely.

Our small hotel is in the historic “Centro” of Vicenza,within the old city walls. We are just a block off of the Corso Palladino, the main pedestrian shopping and strolling street. It is busy with local shoppers as well as tourists at all hours of the day. Except for 1:30-4,because most shops close then for the  afternoon.It can be frustrating if your time is limited and you want  to get things done, but that is the way of life here.People don’t seem to want to be in a hurry. At home, everyone seems to be busy as a matter of course. Here, I just  don’t think that “busy” would be the response to the”How  are you?” Question that everyone asks so routinely. “Fine” is more likely.

Saturday Meike took us to see some of the Palladian villas close to Vicenza. The one we did see, “La Rotunda” was amazing ( the other was closed.  For a wedding). Its symmetrical, square shape topped with a huge dome, is a beautiful example of Palladio’s concept of returning to the classic forms in architecture. The interior of the dome as well as the  other ceilings in the building are covered with elaborate decoration, paintings and patterns that somehow seem at odds with the architecture’s simplicity. But maybe that is just my bias for “less is more”modernism. The setting of the house, on a hill surrounded by open fields has been maintained despite so many changes since it was built in about 1566. Still, standing on the terrace in the back of the house, looking  out, one  can easily delete the road passing between two rows of tall trees and see what Andrea Palladiio saw. The house is privately owned and is used by the owners regularly. One living room, furnished with comfortably upholstered chairs and sofas was especially inviting for a nice hour of reading with a breeze coming in the open windows. Alas, it was not offered!

We had lunch  at Meike’s home and got to see how Italians live today. Their place is really large, with 4 bedrooms and 3 baths on 3 levels with a small back garden and a garage. Lunch was a variety of different “flavored” of a kind of filled pasta I had never seen  before. Round, thickly filled pillows about 2″ in diameter filled with ricotta and prunes, one with ricotta and zucchini and one with a tomato flavored pasta and filling. Delicious ! With salad and Parmesan cheese, of course.

We left their house with their car so that we could drive ourselves to Marostica for our evening’s special event, the “Human Chess Game”. Based on a mid 20th century story set in Marostica, the town has produced a week-end long series of performances one time every 2 years since the 1940’s. It is a spectacle that involved about 600  residents of this small town(abut 13,000 population) about 30 minutes from central Vicenza. Arriving just after 6pm, we easily found parking next to the Castle and set off in search of dinner. Our first choice was fully booked ( we didn’t think of reserving ahead) but then another restaurant decided that it could accommodate us in about 30 minutes. We wandered off and looked at the historic, 14 century stone walls and high castle that surmount the hill above the City. Dinner was lovely and we made our way to our seats high in the temporary grandstands erected all around the main plaza of the City. The event begins at 9pm, well into the dark evening. The pageant includes about a dozen mounted horses, some of which take part in the  chess game, some just seem to be atmosphere. There were lots of men throwing long handled colorful flags around, children in scenes of medieval village life and a devil character whose role was amusing, if unclear to me. A monk in a brown habit wandered around with a small donkey as well,again unclear as to his role but definitely picturesque!

There was fire all around the chessboard on the pavement of the plaza to start, and fireworks at the end as well.The chess game was played with people as the chess pieces including 2 train-bearers for each Queen, a wonderful “Castle” boxy wooden structure on wheels for each castle and of course, Knights on real horses for the Knights. The horses did not always want to stand still on their squares and needed to be lead around a few times to calm them down. When it was all over, the lights turned the plaza reddish pink, fireworks shot out from the top of the Castle and then more fireworks spilled over the wall of the Castle like a waterfall, very beautiful. We eventually got out of the  parking lot, after waiting for many busses to fill up and depart first. By the time we got back to our hotel it was nearly 1am.

Look for some pictures on Facebook. I’ll try again to set up the wifi so that I can load photos directly to the blog. But not right now. Davide is coming any minute to show us around the Centro and then take us home for a home-made carbonara pasta using eggs from chickens they keep at his garage!

tomorrow we leave for Bologna.




Published in: on September 11, 2016 at 10:48 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Another wonderful story!

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