This lovely little castle in the middle of the countryside near Padua, is a little time machine, where people can eat medieval food, learn how stuff was done without electricity, watch a battle which took place 800 years ago and see the castle set on fire.
Built on the banks of the unpredictable river Bacchiglione, in the countryside of Veneto, the Castello di San Martino della Vaneza is perhaps the most important symbol of the desperate and futile effort of the people or Padua, just at the beginning of the renaissance period, to keep their freedom against the emerging superpower of Venezia. The year 1372, the Carrara family lead the last succesful defense of Padua against the army of the Serenissima. Their freedom though didn’t last long. When the battle took place, the castle was at least 400 years old, probably older.
Every year people living around the sweet Colli Euganei, in the Padua countryside, gather in the area of the castle the last weekend of July to revive the event. The fairy-tail forest around the castello looks like it was 800 years ago, with people in ancient costumes baking bread in stone ovens, soldiers in armours preparing for the battle, women cooking traditional food and brewers serving beer or wine.
At the exclusive supper inside the castle, open to 50 people only (I was lucky enough to be invited ;)) were served medieval traditional dishes and entertainment. It was a great chance to see and taste what rich people ate back then. Poor people, well… they did not eat at all.
After the hearty meal, everyone gather in front of the dry bed of the Bacchiglione river, a fantastic natural amphitheatre in front of the castle, and watch the battle. The show is great, there are about 150 modern professional soldiers belonging to clubs of people crazy for medieval fights (I didn’t know there were so many!). They come all over the Veneto region, some from Lombardia, Toscana, Emilia and Umbria, and fight with real weapons! It was impressive to observe the horses, incredibly brave and beautiful animals, the only ones probably thinking the battle was real. Then after the end of battle, the Castello is “set on fire”, to remember the severe damages it had during the battle. If you happen to be in Venezia in July, the event is worth an afternoon/evening outside the city, just one hour driving.