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Marostica, Italy

The Living Chess Game - Partita a Scacchi di Marostica

Machismo turned on its head: the lady's hand goes to the dude with the bigger brain. 

The royals in 15th-century Marostica, near Venice, were a little more high-class than most. Rather than calling for a high-octane sword duel to win the hand of his daughter, Linora, Lord Taddeo Parisio decreed her two suitors must instead play a game of chess.

After a few hours of rollicking entertainment, the winner would take home his older daughter, and the loser his younger, Oldrada. In true Italian fashion, this 1454 match has become bigger and more ostentatious in modern day with life-sized chess pieces re-enacting the game in the piazza outside where the original took place.

Every other September, chess again becomes a spectator sport. The game, or, more accurately, the four games, take place over three days on a massive pink-and-white marble chessboard in the center of town. From Lord Parisio’s court and two daughters to human chess pieces dressed in ornate black or white 15th-century costume–complete with matching horses for the knights–each of the tiny town’s 700 residents has a part to play. The two most important characters are Linora’s two lovers, who can potentially re-write history in determining where the life-size pieces should move during each unique game.

Like the grand festival which predicated the Lord’s match, the weekend also has parades, period dances, music, and fireworks, all orchestrated to fully recreate the Renaissance for the huge number of tourists who flock to Marostica for the weekend. 

Know Before You Go

From Venice by car: Highway A4 towards Milan. After passing the toll at Grisignano di Zocco, merge onto highway A31 "Valdastico" towards Piovene Rocchette. Continue through Dueville and follow SS 248 Marosticana-Schiavonesca towards Marostica.