, , , ,

On one of my trips to Italia many years ago… before digital photography…I visited a friend in Castelfranco Veneto, near Treviso.  As soon as I got off the train, I found out that she was able to get us tickets to Marostica’s Partita a Scacchi in Costume a Personaggi Viventi -a live chess game in costume.   

While going through old photos last week, I came across these ones from the event. I decided to scan them so we could viaggiare in pultrona-armchair travel and reenact the spectacle!

In 1454, two young noblemen Rinaldo d’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, both wanted to marry Lionora, daughter of Taddeo Parisio, the Castellano (Lord) of Marostica.  They wanted to duel for her hand, which was the thing to do at that time, but her father objected.  He did not want to make an enemy of one of the families.  Instead, he proposed a chess game played with live pieces in the main piazza on a giant chess board.  This way everyone in Marostica could see the game.  The winner would marry Lionora and the runner up her younger sister Oldrada.   The original game was on September 12, 1454 and the event is recreated every other year on the second weekend of September on a 16 metre squared marble scacchiera (chess board)which forms Piazza degli Scacchi in lower Marostica.

Merchants, peasants, gypsies and street entertainers start off the festivities with music and dancing.  

There is even a colourful jousting match as armed foot soldiers, knights and drummers parade from Castello Basso.

Sbandieratori-flag throwers entertain the crowd. Both long-staff and short-staff sbandieratori perform.  These in the photo are from Firenze and at the time, they were the world champions in short staff.  

The main performers then enter the piazza from Castello Basso.  In  the photo below, you can see the raised podium in red velvet, where the actual chess game will be played by the two suitors.

The suitors and their families are the first to enter. The man in the red tights at the front is one of the suitors.

Next in line are the noble families.  Noble families representing Verona, Venezia and Firenze are usually played by family of the sindaco (mayor) of each city.

Some of the elaborate late Medieval costumes are on loan from La Scala in Milano.

Next comes Il Castellano, Lionora in the green and gold dress, her sister Oldrada in the pink and gold dress, and their nursemaid.

Finally, the chess pieces enter.  The black and white king and queen are the most striking pieces.

The game begins with the pawns taking their places on the board.

The game is played on a regular sized chess board on a podium outside the Castello.  When one of the suitors makes a move it is called out by a crier in Dialetto Veneto, then the live piece moves.

The original chess moves have long been forgotten.  Local chess enthusiasts use plays from a more recent match for the performance.

When the game is over, the entire cast parades across the board and they return to Castello Basso.

La Partita a Scacchi in Costume a Personaggi Viventi is held in Marostica every other year (even years) on the second weekend in September.  The next dates are September 9-11, 2022.  There are 4 performances, each with 3600 spectators.  Three performances are at 9pm and one is at 5pm.  Ticket prices vary from €23 to €92.  More information is available on this website.

Have any of you been to the Partita a Scacchi or to Marostica?  Let me know in the comments.

The photos were taken by me and by Nadia Bruschetta, although we aren’t certain who took which photos because they predate digital photography and we shared prints.  I hope you enjoyed this viaggio in pultrona!  Ciao, Cristina