Sunday, September 4, 2011
Palio of Castelfranco Veneto
Our recent trip to Castelfranco was largely a chance encounter, the result of a search for a new diversion after Treviso proved largely a bore. I have been to the small, walled town before, to see the Giorgione exhibit which brought together all of the master's known works for the first time (including the town's own, "Castlefranco Madonna," which is housed in the town's cathedral). This time around, I witnessed an example of one of the country's more typical autumn celebrations: the medieval festival.
Although Siena and Asti have more renowned palios, the celebration in Castelfranco is made more atmospheric by its environs: a little town surrounded by a moat and tall, romantically crumbling red walls. All the events happen within a minute walk from each other, and in every turn a drum procession is going on.
Although the stalls and the events were by no means as grand and complex as the bigger celebrations in bigger Veneto cities such as Vicenza and Verona, the compactness of the celebration gave it a more local feel, with performers and spectators interacting as if neighbors in real life (which they probably are). Craft stalls were manned by the old folks who still knew how to work the tools of their trade; food were served by what must have been the local PTA; and the children tossed the flags and beat the drums. Everybody was in on the party, and the intimacy of the celebration represents the best of Italian communal living.