At the end of June, it’s hot in Bevagna, medieval hilltown of Roman origins in the Valle Umbra Nord, Umbria’s largest valley. Not exactly the ideal day for dressing in heavy woolen capes or jute or velvet gowns – or armor (!) – or for forging bronze bells, baking bread in a stone bread oven, minting coins, glass-blowing or tanning leather. Not even to be imagined: unless you are Bevignate. Months of work on their medieval festival, the Mercato delle Gaite, are coming to fruition now as the town relives its medieval culture and history… with passione.
[lcaption]Medieval lord and lady in blue[/lcaption]
After all, passione is the underlying theme of all things Italian and the only explanation for full involvement for months of all the townspeople in preparation for their local festival, bringing alive local traditions and history. Bevagna’s ten-day medieval festival, the Mercato delle Gaite, synthesizes the passione of the Bevignati – six-year-olds to the elderly – for Bevagna’s medieval heritage.
For months prior, the people of the four Bevagna gaite – or sections of the town – research meticulously the trades and traditions animating their town in the Middle Ages. Throughout their ten-day festival, the gaite (a Lombard word meaning “guard towers” – and the Lombards/Longobard dominated Umbria in the 8th century) compete con grande passione in the authenticity of the medieval banquet (based on months of culinary research), the street fair and each gaita’s artisan workshops.
[lcaption]Medieval city hall with the four gaite banners[/lcaption]
Joining in the medieval banquet in medieval costume is a time machine transfer back to the thirteenth century… and an experience I won’t miss! My tour guests often join in with enthusiasm. Last year, after slipping into medieval costumes (hot and itchy, we took them off before dinner was over… but the locals didn’t!), we all sat at plank tables in the medieval taverne, washing in terracotta basins of rosewater before dinner – and what a feast! With the Bevignati, we all shared in a banquet of lasagne with ginger and saffron, slivered almond and pinenuts (but no tomato, of course!), followed by venison with sweet-and-sour onions and other medieval delicacies.
After the banquet, a wander through the buttressed medieval backstreets – so characteristic of Bevagna – to see the astounding re-creations of medieval crafts: from the grinding of colors for fresco painting to the forging of swords to the spinning of silk. How not to mention the goldsmith, the glass-blowing, the minting of coins, forging of bronze church bells, the making of parchment from stretched sheepkin, paper-making, leather-curing and the writing of illuminated manuscripts? In torchlit vaulted medieval ambiences, craftswomen and tradesmen in authentic medieval dress demonstrated and explained their artisan works to fascinated visitors… con grande passione.
[lcaption]Washing in rose water prior to banquet[/lcaption]
Thanks to Federico Fondacci of Bevagna for the photos of the Mercato delle Gaite medieval trades scenes.
See, hear and feel the passione of the Bevignati:
Read about a favorite place to eat snails near Bevagna