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Bevagna's Mercato delle Gaite

Anne Robichaud

I often tell my tour guests that appreciating Italian passione is key to fully understanding the Italians. Passione is the underlying theme of all things Italian: from the elegant presentation of colorful gelati  behind pristine glass to the artistic display of meats on butchers' shiny metal trays to the full involvement for months of all the townspeople in preparation for the many local festivals which bring alive Italy's culture and history.

Bevagna's end-of-June medieval festival the Mercato delle Gaite synthesizes the passione of the Bevignati - six-year-olds to the elderly - for the medieval history and culture of their town. All year, the people of the four Bevagna gaite - or sections of the town - research meticulously the trades and traditions giving life to their town in the Middle Ages. During the Mercato delle Gaite festival, the four gaite compete in the reenactment of medieval banquets (all foods authentically medieval), street fairs and artisan workshops.

This year, our group of children and adults joined the Santa Maria gaite for their medieval banquet. The Australian and American teenagers with me (far taller than their medieval counterparts!) were decked out in medieval costumes as we all joined "the locals" in a medieval banquet featuring lasagne with exotic spices, venison with sweet-and-sour onions and other medieval fare.

Mercato delle Gaite

A young Australian becomes a medieval dama

Afterwards, we went on to see all phases of medieval silk production reenacted - and painstakingly explained - by costumed Bevignati.

Fresco artists' apprentices grinding their masters' colors, paper-makers mincing rags for their paper, elderly women spinning silk floss, friars painstakingly writing illuminated manuscripts, glass-blowers, forgers of swords and shields, laborers in the town mint beating out coins all bring the Middle Ages alive in Bevagna every year at the end of June.

Anne Robichaud lives near Assisi and gives lectures and tours. www.annesitaly.com

© Anne Robichaud, 2010. Do not republish without permission.

This essay was first published on Anne's website www.annesitaly.com. Edited by Slow Travel.

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