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Marostica—Medieval Castles, Cherries and Chess

For me, Marostica is a good place to start my Italy trip (after all the family hugs and kisses, of course). Typically, I’m tired from the over night flight the day before, we’re still adjusting to time differences, and it’s a small town so we can take in as much as we want and not miss anything.

I saw Marostica for the first time in 2009 when we were doing the hour drive from Cody’s parent’s house in Santorso to his sister’s house in Rossano.

My first glimpse of Marostica.
My first glimpse of Marostica in 2009.

The small town is nestled into the the foothills of the Alps. From the main roadway you can see one of it’s two castles sitting on top of the hill. This is called Castello Superiore.  The walls of the city, like strong protective arms, extend down the hill from the upper castle and encircle the original small town, coming to their conclusion at the bottom of the hill with the lower castle (Castello Inferiore). Twenty-four towers symmetrically spaced down the wall have been keeping a watchful eye for intruders since 1372.

FullView
I love this artist’s rendition of Marostica. It shows everything Marostica is noted for.

The lower castle and walls are amazingly still intact while the upper castle was mostly destroyed in 1510. It’s now a beautiful restaurant with what remains.

Like I said, Marostica isn’t that big. But what it has is worth checking out. The town is known for three things:

  1. The two castles and walls. Tours of the lower castle are given to groups. But individuals can also do a self-guided walking tour any time for only 5 Euro. They give free tours to the public on Sundays.
  2. Delicious Marostica cherries. There is a cherry festival every year at the end of May. Here’s something I didn’t know about the cherries: “The Marostica cherry P.G.I., the only Italian cherry to bear this geographical indication, is heart-shaped and is picked by hand without removing the stalk, a technique that helps the fruit maintain it’s flavor and aroma. The color of the Marostica can range from pink to dark red according to the variety. It is juicy and has a full taste, ranging from somewhat tart to sweet.” (Taken from chefbiseski.com)
  3. A live chess match played every other year on the second weekend of September. This is a reenactment of a fictional story of two noblemen who fell in love with Lionora, the King’s daughter. The tradition was to duel for her hand. But the king wouldn’t have it. He ordered them, instead, to a chess match. The winner would marry Lionora. The loser would marry Oldrada, Lionora’s younger sister. How would you like to be a consolation prize?
The lower castle looking over the piazza (center square).
View of the lower castle looking across the chess board piazza.
The city walls are still in place after about 640 years! They still give tours of the walls where you can walk along the top as they tell you the history of the town.
The city walls are still in place after more than 600 years! I think they do tours of these as well.
The live chess match is played every other year. The piazza is also used for summer concerts series each year.
The live chess match played every other year includes horses and small wooden castles. The piazza is also used for other events throughout the year like an annual summer concerts series.

On past trips we walked through the town and in the courtyard of the lower castle to check everything out. Last year I was on my own while Cody took care of business with his mom and dad. I hiked up the hill to the upper castle, enjoying the views and some Marostica cherries (cherry is ciliegia in Italian, pronounced chi-lee-eja).

The hiking path and view. The day I went a group of school kids were taking the path. They ran, I walked (and panted at the sped past me).
The hiking path and view. The day I went up a group of school kids were there. They ran, I walked (and panted at the sped past me).

The stone path is not an easy hike. It's bumpy a little steep. The stone path winds through olive groves, cherry groves, and forest trees. It's a little steep, but the views are well worth it.
The bumpy stone path isn’t easy. It winds through olive trees, cherry trees, and a small forest. It’s a little steep, but well worth the views.

One of the views from the hike. You can see the lower castle just above center and a little of the checker board piazza.
One of the views from the hike. You can see the lower castle just above center.


This year we did the self-guided tour of the lower castle. I thought it would be audio, but it was a page with a description and explanation of each area of the castle to read. It was very helpful and gave you just enough explanation of each room to to give a great overview.

After walking through the courtyard and walking through an old metal gate that is unlocked for you, you are instructed how to lock it on your way you. You're then let loose to do your own tour. The courtyard is surrounded by a series of room on the first and second floor. This is the first of the rooms on the second floor. The City council still holds monthly meetings in this room. It also used to house a small chapel at one time.
After walking through the courtyard and being led through an old metal gate, we were instructed how to lock it on our way out. Then we were let loose to do our own tour. The courtyard is surrounded by a series of room on the first and second floor. This is the first of the rooms on the second floor. The City council still holds monthly meetings in this room. It also  housed a small chapel at one time.
The final room on the second floor houses the plans, props and story of the first live chess match in 1954. some of the props are still being used.
The final room on the second floor houses the plans, props and story of the first live chess match in 1954. Some of the original props are still being used.
After going through each room, you can climb the tower stairs.
After going through each room, we climbed the tower stairs. On level 3 we walked outside along the perimeter of the lower castle. It’s easy to imagine medieval guards shooting arrows from the crenels (word of the day) and arrow slits.

 

Up the winding stairs each level offered great displays and history. This was the level where they showed the prison. Check out the small doors. They had one room open for visitors to walk through.
Up the winding stairs each level offered great displays and history. This was the level where they showed the prison. Check out the small doors.
At the top of the tower was the captain's room. With windows on each side, you could see the whole area. The two alcoves to the right of the window are a toilet and a sink.
At the top of the tower was the captain’s room. With windows on each side, we could see the surrounding area. The two alcoves to the right of the window are a toilet and a sink.
Looking north from the top of the tower give this great view of Marostica.
Looking north from the top of the tower gave us this great view of Marostica.

We really enjoyed the tour of the castle. It was worth the time to see it. Marostica has so much to offer and is a always a good addition to anyone’s Italy trip.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

 

Claire

Thanks for reading!
Claire Formilan

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