Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vicenza Antique Market and Medieval Fair

(The eternally picturesque Loggia Valmarana, in the Giardini Salvi.)

Enjoy these pictures from downtown Vicenza today, with simultaneous events going on. Along with the usual Sunday passeggiata and monthly antiques market, there was also a somewhat rowdy medieval fair and the celebration of the "Rua." The streets were packed, the crowds were lively, and the sky was blue. Perfect day, except there was no loot to bring back home.

This was the first medieval fair I have been to, and as fun as it is, it still boggles my mind: is it a celebration of medieval life? The war, death, destruction, pestilence, hunger? The Italians seem to have a love affair with its medieval fairs, and I think it is because the period was by and large Italy's "shining moment," right before the invasion of foreign neighbors and about the time when Italy's hordes of talented artists, thinkers, and inventors started to teach Europe a thing or two about progress. Regardless, it is fun, and if they had such things as marching bands, flag throwing, and stilt-dancers back then, life couldn't have been so difficult. (During the same weekend Marostica's bigger and more well-known medieval fair centered around a "historic" chess match was going on. However, as much as I try to convince myself to go because everyone seems to want to go, everything always boils down to, "three hours of watching a chess match?")

Vicenza's market is not as big as Piazzola sul Brenta's, nor as impressive as big-small city markets such as the one in Lucca, but it holds its own. I am always on the lookout for books about the history of Vicenza and the Veneto, as well as books on Palladio, and the city's market is chock full of them.

Finally, sometime during the last few weeks a tower called "rua" was erected in the Piazza dei Signori. The story goes that during the 14th century the city constructed a tower for religious processions. As time went by, the tower became taller, heavier, and gaudier, until the church finally refused to use it for processions anymore because people looked forward to the tower more than the passing sacrament. However, it continued as a symbol of the city. Throughout the years, the tower was re-constructed to honor major religious and civic events, as well as whichever passing foreign army was in power: the Venetians, the Austrians, and the Savoys. The last time the tower was put on display was 1928, and never again because the weight of the tower as well as the cables crisscrossing the piazza made it difficult to transport it. (Surprisingly enough, part of the difficulty stemmed from the fact that it never occurred to the locals to put the thing on wheels.) The original is now gone, destroyed during WWII along with much of the town, and the new tower that stands today is a much less extravagant reconstruction of the original.

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