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Medieval festival in Bevagna

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I’m excited to know that when I’m back in Umbria in June, I’ll again be able to catch a few days of Bevagna’s fascinating Mercato delle Gaite, a remarkably rich, cultural event that essentially transports the walled town, its inhabitants and visitors, all back to the Middle Ages.

Last year, I caught only one evening of the event and found it fascinating.

The title of this elaborate festival refers to Bevagna's division, during medieval times, into four gaites or neighbourhoods. Each year, there is an elaborate competition between the four to create, each within its own area, an authentic reproduction of life in the medieval period.

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For the Mercato, Bevagna's windy medieval streets are lit by flickering torches (very atmospheric!); buildings are turned into the types of workshops that were essential in any community at that time -- candle-makers, weavers, fabric dyers, potters, bakers, goldsmiths (not so many of those) and, of course, taverns with plank tables and benches.

Night after night, townspeople in period costume actually re-create the work of these artisans. For example, last year I watched as women produced silk threads. One could follow the entire process, from the carefully watching over slabs of dirt where the silkworms burrowed and worked, fed by local mulberry bushes; through to the spinning of great lengths of silk thread from a single pod. Slightly creepy, but fascinating.

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Local residents seem to get into character very quickly, and intensely fight for the honour of their gaite. Even cooking becomes a competition, as the four gaites present banquets with dishes that must be authentic to the region and to the period of about 1250 to 1350.

With just one night to visit last June, I missed so much. I saw a few spectacles -- a fire-eating juggler in the Piazza Silvestri, with (mysteriously) rubber pigs instead of rubber chickens -- but I didn't get to spend much time in each of the four gaite.

I hope to make up for that this year.

Comments (9)

This sounds very cool. I bet it's amazing to see the city by torchlight. The food is probably very interesting too.

Oh that will be so much fun!

We JUST missed it last year! That will be very cool!

What a special treat to be there for the festival! I’m very curious about the medieval dishes prepared for the competition.

I went to a medieval festival in Foligno in 2002 and enjoyed the festive mood, the jousting but missed the evening when they had the communal table dinner. I hope to read about your experience sharing in this wonderful and interesting event.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, its so great that you'll be there again to experience this amazing festival. What a treat and lucky you. I like how the residents really gets into the characters like that. Sounds like you have a great trip planned.

Have a great weekend.

sandrac:

Annie, Candi, it is really cool, very atmospheric.

Palma, it's a shame you and Brad missed it --maybe next year?!

Maria, the food last year was very good. I was only able to go in for one meal, but this year, I hope to try a few different venues.

I wonder when Foligno has its festival? I'm so near there, I'll have to check it out.

Hi Kathy, I really had the sense that this festa was for local residents, first and foremost! Visitors were very welcome, but it didn't feel like this was something put on for the tourists.

Hope you, too, have a great weekend!

they have a nice one in Suvereto too, that is near San Vincenzo on the Etruscan coast. IT is funny how these people look like they came out of a painting from the middle ages. It's genetic.

Barb Cabot:

This sounds like a really wonderful experience. I'm going to share this with my daughter and hopefully she can experience this. Thank you for sharing this unique experience.

This looks like such a cool event to attend! Lucky you to be there at again at the right time. Glad you may get to see more of it this year.

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