Marostica

 

Marostica is the town of the human-chess, of culture, cherries, orange flag of the italian touring club and much more. Lying on the “Prealpi” (alpine foothills) that develops, green and fancy, from the river Astico to the river Brenta, has always attracted much interest to its many natural beauties and for a long and glorious past. Gentle hills, green and sunny where still today cherry trees, olive trees and grapes are cultivated and the plain immediately below favored human settlements since prehistoric times. Numerous findings are the testimony of an ancient past, pre-roman and home to the sophisticated  Adriatic Veneti civilization (“Paleoveneti”), with several necropolises dating back to XIII-VII centuries Before Christ.

In an ancient map from the 1500’s, Marostica is depicted, lying on the hill sides, with a fortified presence and many windmills, demonstrating an intense social and economical life. The mount where the town develops, the Pausolino, boasts the imposing presence of the scaligero “Castello Superiore”, which still today dominates the city. Ruins of roman forts and buildings are still today visible in the surrounding areas, with many watchtowers built to control and defend the fertile plains below. The town as we know it today is intrinsically roman; we talked about the ruins and the watchtowers, but possibly even more curious and interesting are all the stones and other findings depicting a lively daily life, with an active religious existence, especially after the Constantine’s edict (313 AD) proclaimed a substantial tolerance towards christians. The old town developed around Church Santa Maria.

After the fall of the western roman empire (technically dated 476 AD), Marostica followed the happenings of Italy and of Veneto especially, with the roman-barbarian kingdoms; it lived the desolating and miserable conditions of the greek-gothic war (535-553) between Byzantines and Ostrogoths. After a brief byzantine domination, in 568 the Lombards (“Longobardi”) invaded the region, establishing a domination that lasted for more than two centuries, until 774. The Castle on the mount Plauso was used and kept in high consideration even in these an the subsequent centuries. Part of the lombard Duchy of Vicenza first and of the frank county of Vicenza, with the Franks from Charlemagne (774) afterwards, Marostica remained under frank rule until 887. In this period, the roman fortifications and the castle are well maintained and their utilization is well documented, especially to confront the increasing threat posed by the Hungarians, who roamed the territories and who finally defeated Berengario del Friuli, king of Italy, in 899.

The X century marks a significant religious development, with monasteries and churches built all over the territories, providing an important support to the local populations, with the introduction of several agricultural initiatives. It is in this period that, along with a major part of Italy, this region is incorporated into the germanic Holy Roman Empire. Marostica has seen lots throughout the remaining time and until today; it was contended often between the Repubblica di Venezia and the Austrian Hungarian Empire, and part of the Serenissima it remained until the Vienna Congress in 1815. It is in 1866 that the city becomes formally part of the Kingdom of Italy, along with the rest of Veneto.

Marostica has many and beautiful testimonies of an illustrious and long past, and it is one of the most characteristic places not just of the Veneto region. Marostica is famous for its products (especially the fabulous cherries “marosticane”) and for the chess square. Just in the middle of the town, in facts, the square is paved like a chess table where, but only in the even years, a human-sized living chess game is represented, taking inspiration from renaissance times. The story of this historical representation echoes a story of love, nobility and chivalry: two noblemen, Rinaldo d’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara were both in love with the beautiful Lionora, the daughter of Taddeo Parisio, decreed to fight in duel, but the Serenissima had forbidden any form of duel. It is then, 1454, that Taddeo Parisio established that the duel would be resolved with a chess challenge and that the winner would have been allowed to marry Lionora. The second Sunday of September, in 1454, the “duel” took place and Vieri da Vallonara won, obtaining the hand of Lionora.

Ancient as this episode is, the “scacchiera” (chessboard) has assumed the current look only in 1954 and, after that, the historical game is represented every two years. It has become so famous that the same representation has been been copied in other cities around the world. The peculiar atmosphere, with the flavor of a time long past, returns to life with a spectacular choreography, where original historical costumes can be admired in the permanent expo in the Castello da Basso.