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Corteo Storico di Quattro Castella

I have so many unfinished draft posts, I’m going to start pounding these out — punctuation and coherence be damned!

It’s been four years since I sold all and moved to Italy and there is a semi-famous festival nearby that I have managed to consistently miss every year for one reason or another. The Corteo Storico at Quattro Castella, which is very similar to our Renaissance festivals, is an annual festival to celebrate the 1,000 year old cash cow known as Matilde of Canossa. Part of what makes it so well known is the promise of two beautiful celebrities who come to town to play the parts of Matilde and Heinrich IV, King of Germany to reenact his famed trip from Germany to Canossa to grovel at the feet of Matilde and to return to the good graces of the Church. A story that spawned the phrase, “The Walk to Canossa,” used as both a battle cry of the Ottoman Empire to not cow-tow to any outside force and a metaphor for doing penance.

I don’t want to sound sour, but this is one of the very few times I’ve had to buy a ticket to get into a festival, let alone pay for parking outside of one. A Springsteen concert, no problem. A small medieval festival in a town I’ve been in countless times with a “Dancing with the Stars” runner up as the main attraction, my enthusiasm wanes. Do I sound sour?

Arriving about 9pm, most everything in the lower part of the town was closed up, the stage from earlier events broken down and all of the food carts covered over. This was the last day of the three day festival and the main action was was in the field beneath Castello di Bianello. The locals were dressed in period clothing, some as soldiers with weapons and others with the tools of their trades for their characters. The stadium where games of soccer are usually played was overflowing from end to end with spectators watching sword fights and fire dancers in front of a stage constructed for the final scenes with Matilde and Heinrich.

I wandered the mercato in the street below the stadium whose vendors peddled handmade goods of the period such as armor for knights, swords, handmade clothing, pottery, toys and beer. Well, no, the beer wasn’t handmade but it was the only thing I bought. Having explored the streets, I walked back up into the stadium just as the “Parade of 1,000″ began, which was a procession of around a thousand locals dressed in costume walking out onto the field grouped by their individual communities. It’s not uncommon for summer festivals to run late, and this was no exception. Already after midnight the reenactment of Matilde and Heinrich wouldn’t begin for another half hour.

Eventually Matilde and Heinrich walked onto the stage and sat in their wooden thrones while the famous European story was recited by a faceless actor with a deep booming voice. And he recited. And he recited some more. My Italian has improved, but long periods of passato remoto make my eyes cross so I unfortunately missed a lot of the story, but Wikipedia saved me in the end. Apparently after Heinrich begged for forgiveness and his excommunication from the church was lifted, he returned to Germany only to lose his throne to evil Saxon warlord, David Hasselhoff. Oh Wikipedia, ever the source of accurate information.

Comments (8)


  1. Mom says:

    I think I would have had a beer too. Were you in the procession of 1000? I’m glad you finally made it there. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dad says:

    Great story and great pictures, too.

  3. madalena says:

    Ma comme un americano come lei, con un nome Brian Burton puo vivere in Italia come niente? Che lavora fai? Siete un refugee? Anche io con il mio famiglia voglia vivere in Italia con i miei genitori che sonno Italiani…ma no possiamo perche noi siamo Canadesi…non abbiamo lavoro e non abbiamo un sacco di dollari!! How did you do it?

  4. Brian says:

    Ciao Madalena! Per me e’ stato piu’ facile perche’ sono venuto da solo, quindi non c’era bisogno di un sacco di soldi. Poi ho ottenuto la doppio cittadinanza e cosi’ e’ molto piu’ conveniente stare qui. Per lavoro sviluppo siti web sul internet, la stessa cosa che facevo negli stati, allora posso farlo dovunque basta che c’e’ internet.

    Grazie per aver letto il mio blog!

  5. adf says:

    Ciao Madalena!

    Sì, in effetti Brian è molto bravo! Ha intrapreso una grandissima avventura e ha avuto il coraggio di lasciare tutto negli Stati per venire in Italia, la terra dei suoi antenati (se non mi sbaglio nacque in Italia suo bisnonno.. non è vero, Brian?). In ogni caso è una delle persone più brave e più speciali che io abbia mai incontrato. Da lui potresti imparare tante cose e sono sicura che se ci provi puoi ottenere la doppia cittadinanza canadese-italiana. Perché non ti rivolgi ad un impiegato del consolato nella tua città a chiedere informazione? Noi che siamo americani non conosciamo bene le leggi in Canada.

    Ma volevo chiedere una cosa: che c’entra il suo nome? Avere un nome abbastanza “americano” non vuol dire che non è italiano nel cuore… non trovi?

  6. Brian says:

    Damn, this girl’s got my back! Next bar brawl I’m in, you’re invited. :-)

  7. adf says:

    Errr, if you’re the type to get into bar brawls, I wouldn’t want to be your friend! :P

    Just kidding. Heheh.

  8. madalena says:

    Brian, mi dispiace se i miei paroli sembrano vindicative. Penso che siete un ragazzo simpatico e ho fatto come tutti noi vogliono fare dans la vita…vivere i nostri sogni!!Bravo! As Lou Lou Lemon says, “ Jealousy works the opposite way you want it to”. For years, I have wanted to do as you have done. But, life or rather fear always got in the way…a wee bit jealous am I. No hard feelings!!! Ciao

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