Monday, July 4, 2011

Colle Val d'Elsa: A Real Town, A Fake Festival

    The light in Colle Val d'Elsa on July 2 was nearly the same as on December 18, when photographer Marco Giacomelli and I were snowed in when covering this Tuscan town for an upcoming issue of Vista, Florence & Tuscany.  What were Elke and I doing here months later?  At the Montelupo ceramics festival (see June 27 post), a random basket weaver told us about a
 "Renaissance Festival."

    I called my contact in Colle, who answered despite the fact he was on vacation.  Mr. Rabazzi gave me a person to talk to regarding a "Renaissance Festival," which he said was run by a company which organizes medieval events throughout Tuscany.  "We stipulated that it should be 'Renaissance'," he said.

     When Elke and I arrived, we took a shuttle bus to up historic Colle (which means hill in Italian) and enjoyed the beautiful views from the town, which, apart from a few Renaissance buildings, is basically medieval in architecture.  Why, then, was the name of the event changed?  We were never to find out...

      Despite the advertising posters, Elke and I soon realized that this was a mock-up of a medieval event in an actual medieval town.  Luckily we had press passes, otherwise admission was 9 euro per adult (children free).

        Colle Val d'Elsa was the authentic medieval stage, a perfect movie set for  amateur actors and actresses walking around in period costume.  The admission including entrance to a market featuring stands selling products medieval and not.

       We saw a man forging and asked him if he was a blacksmith.  He replied, Ci prova, faccio finta ("I am trying my best, this is make believe.")

      We found the basket weaver we had met in Montelupo, still demonstrating his craft and selling his baskets, although this time he was wearing medieval costume.    Born in Sicily, Giorgio Lasalla moved to this Tuscan town as a child, where he learned the craft of basket weaving.

      Colle Val d'Elsa is actually world renowned for its handcrafted crystal, and we found an outdoor demonstration, which is usually scheduled on the first Sunday of the month.

    We went to the Archeological Museum, which displayed reproductions of Etruscan funeral urns found in Florence, as well as fragments of locally found pottery more than 2,000 years old.

      The museum could definitely use an update;  its most impressive feature was the view out the window....

     We quickly walked through the nearby Civic Museum.  Apart from a painting of the Deposition, a Pietà by Rodolfo Ghirlandaio, I liked an unusually tender portrayal of the Madonna and Child, painted in the early Renaissance (1430), using realism in the context of then-outdated Gothic style
 by Ventura di Moro.

     Back outside, past some "medieval" pilgrims, we started walking down from Colle, leaving the historic town behind us.

    Near the gate, we stopped for something to drink at a café and found that bartender dressed to play the part.

      Photographer Marco Giacomelli and I made many interesting discoveries in Colle Val d'Elsa this past December (to be published this Christmas in Vista). so my advice is to definitely visit (SITA bus from the Florence train station), but not during the
 'Renaissance' festival.

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