Having been twice to Volterra’s Medieval Festival (AD1398), and being on the point of going to Sansepolcro for the annual crossbow palio (against Gubbio), I am already amazed at how Tuscany (and Italy) “do” the past.
Magnificent costumes, evocative atmospheres, enthusiasm and, above all, an obvious passion for tradition, history and community.
Other Tuscan cities have equally spectacular festivals; cities such as Pisa, Arezzo, Siena and Florence. But let’s not forget that the smaller communities also “do” medieval; communities including Castiglione di Garfagnana, Filetto, Roccatederighi, Cutigliano and Nozzano Castello.
However, until September 6th, I had not experienced any of the festivities in the smaller communities. An unexpected opportunity was presented by two Italian friends, Marcello and Alessandra, to go to Nozzano Castello.
This small community lies about 7 kilometres from Lucca, and is dominated by its castle which stands proud on a hilltop, overlooking the surrounding countryside.
On climbing up towards the castle and the historic centre of the village, one can well imagine how impressive and impregnable it must have appeared to the medieval populace. The view out from the gate is stunning!
The castle, itself, dating from the 1200s was demolished and rebuilt during Castruccio Castraccini’s rule. It was used until the 1500s to control shipping on the River Serchio. Curiously, one of its towers is topped by a chapel.
Let’s forget history, as factually stated, and relive it instead!
Convert your euros into medieval coinage (matildi, matildini, castrucci and sercambi) and enter the historic village.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
Wander through its small, but exquisite streets, perusing and, perhaps, purchasing something from one of the stalls. Enter the castle and gaze upwards, but beware the soldiers honing their sword and archery skills. Partake of food and wine, and rub shoulders with lords and ladies, peasants, jugglers, drummers etc.
Small but Perfect
It’s a small scale festival compared to some, but perfect; warm, welcoming and friendly. We had a chat with some knights from Chiusi, as well as local drummers, inn keepers and visiting nobility. We watched the parade of the drummers, stirred by the beat of the drums; cheered on the knights in single combat, and applauded the creation of new knights from amongst the watching children.
My sense of humour allows me to laugh at some of the incongruities encountered; medieval knights with cans of Coca Cola (I would never have believed it was that old!), a stylish medieval man whose outfit would obviously have been less than perfect without his sunglasses.
What a perfect afternoon, sadly brought to an end too soon; we had to be elsewhere for the evening. Perhaps next year.
Hats off to you, Tuscany, for what you do so well, and love doing, regardless of size.
By Jenny M Want
For Jenny, living in Italy is a dream come true and not everyone can claim that.
A retired teacher, she now lives in Barga with her partner David. Their journey to Barga began with a holiday but they both felt that Barga chose them to stay, so here they are.
Immersed in the life here, Jenny passes her time writing, researching, observing and learning. Who knows what else is to come?