Written by Charlie Wirfel ’20
This blog post is written in response to Charlie’s summer trip to Italy with Professor Matthew Notarian.
Throughout my six weeks spent in Italy, I took several side trips to various cities mainly in the Tuscan region. My favorite side trip by far was to Monteriggioni. The side trip was not planned by the program, but our very nerdy Australian peer, Ben. Monteriggoni was a walled city that looked like it walked straight out of the medieval period. Ben wanted to attend the Medieval festival that was held there, and about 10 of us decided to go with him.
Getting to the city was a bit of a challenge. We first took a train to Poggibonsi, and then a bus to Monteriggioni. We got dropped off at the base of the large hillock where the fortress was located. The hill was much steeper than it looked. Watching people descend from the city gates was amusing, and one family was making a human chain to keep from falling down the hill.
As soon as I walked through the city gates, it felt as if I had walked into the past. While I could see the rich history of Italy in every city or town I visited, this place felt different. I distinctly remember standing on the wall of the city, and I was in such awe. The beautiful rolling hills of the Chianti region were spread out below me, and I could see miles and miles of the countryside. I could hear music playing in the square below, accompanying Ben’s speech on what must it have felt like to be an Italian soldier standing on that very wall with the same view we had now.
Maybe it was the view, maybe it was the music, or even Ben’s words, but the rest of the world seemed to melt away and just for that moment all I knew was this city. The lingering fears and anxieties of my last year at school were put away for a bit, and I got to throughly enjoy a mental escape. I sat up on the wall looking out for quite some time enjoying the scenery and the atmosphere of Monteriggioni.
Throughout the city there were vendors, food stations, and costumed people getting ready for the festival to begin. I ran across a small leather-worker stand and went back two or three more times until I finally bought the hand-made leather notebook I was eyeing. I went on to use it to jot down notes and thoughts for the rest of my time in Italy, and it is my favorite souvenir I brought back.
The festival began a few hours after we had already been meandering around Monteriggioni, starting with a group of 3 loud, boisterous bag pipe players entering on the stage. The festival had officially begun with the town’s jester coming out and giving great speeches and making people laugh. (I wish I could understand Italian more than I did!) He introduced the line-up of “characters,” or the actors and performers of the festival. There was a drum line, belly dancers, hooded ghouls, Italian noblemen and women, and Italian portrait paintings come to life through makeup and costume.
It was unfortunate that we could not stay much longer after the festival began— we had a bus to catch. Regardless, I enjoyed my time there, and it was one of my favorite places I have ever been.