The medieval town of Marostica – quietly situated at the foot of the Venetian “pre-Alps” – and not far from the city of Vicenza – is one of those small Italian towns in which its’ historic past is reborn every year in the form of a “living chess match” that honors the occasion of a real-life match which occurred in the year 1454.
With only 13,000 inhabitants, Marostica hasn’t so much outgrown its historic roots as it has embraced them. The Marostica castle, its piazza and centro storico old town) are as much a part of daily life now as in ages past. And to understand the town’s annual chess match re-enactment is to understand the timeless principals of honor, courage and above all romance.
More than a simple game of Chess
As is so often the case, a love-triangle gone bad is the impetus for the chess game of Marostica. Imagine yourself in the year 1454: one such Lionora – the daughter of the King Taddeo Parisio – has to decide between two suitors, knights in shining armor both. The first, the noble warrior Rinaldo d’ Angerano and the second Lord Vieri di Vallonara. Both great gentlemen with whom you could share a mug of ale but now forced to duel it out for the hand of their betrothed.
Let it be said that the King – a wise man if ever there was one – was not to keen on jousting and sword play as a means of declaring one’s love. He decided the two knights would keep their swords in their scabbards and instead play a game of chess unlike any that had been played before: with human chess pieces, with the piazza of the castle serving as the chess board. To the winner – the hand of the King’s daughter Lionoa. To the loser, with the King’s younger daughter Oldrada he would wed. A win-win proposition if ever there was one.
Like many fables the passage of time seems to have glossed over exactly who won the chess match. Linora apparently said that if her beloved won, the castle would be awash in white light. Seeing as how she was in love with both suitors, the castle was awash in white light regardless.
Marostica chess match in modern times
The famous chess match of Marostica is held on even-numbered years on Friday-Saturday-Sunday of the second weekend in September. The match involves the talents of 550 participants comprising musicians, dancers, street jugglers and other talent not to mention the chess pieces. The piazza is configured to seat an estimated 4000 spectators. Tickets usually go on sale at the beginning of August and generally get snatched up in quick fashion. Don’t worry though. Even if you visit Marostica during an odd-numbered year or at any time besides the month of September there’s still plenty to do and see in the town itself and in the surrounding area.
Where to eat and stay
If you can swing it, I recommend the Hotel Due Mori(Corso Giuseppe Mazzini 73/75, 36063 Marostica, tel. 0039-0424-471777, Fax 0039-0424-476920, email email@example.com) which is nestled inside the walls of the Marostica castle and which puts you right in the middle of things in terms of accessing everything the town has to offer.
The Hotel Europa(Via Pizzamano 18, 36063 Marostica. Tel: 0039-0424-77842) is another consideration. Located only 100 meters from the piazza, the Europa is not quite as large or luxurious as the Due Mori but is still well kept and comfortable.
You’ll want to feed yourself after the Osteria Madonetta(Via Vajenti 21, Marostica, Tel: 0039-0424-75859) is where you want to hang your hat. Better known as “the place the locals eat”, the Osteria Madonetta is simple but well-equipped to meet the challenge at hand: feed you well without charging an arm and a leg.
Marostica is a great little town which is steeped in history and makes for a great day trip or weekend. If you can schedule the chess match then god on you! If not, the town of Marostica is still worth a stop on your itinerary!