The San Luca Fair from 8 to 23 October
Treviso: in October, a great fair comes to the city for two fun-filled weeks culminating on St. Luke's day (18 October). The fair dates back to the 10th century, although it has taken place regularly only since 1205. For the city, it was the most solemn and joyous event of the year when goods from all over north east Italy were on display and special criers were dispatched to every city in the Triveneto, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. It originally took place in September and was dedicated to St Michael of Melma in honour of his birthplace. It changed date and place when the Municipality of Treviso decided to dedicate the fair to a compatriot who became pope with the name of Benedict XI.
Today trading no longer takes place, but it is still an occasion to taste the season's new wine and specialities such as "folpi"
(octopus), marrons, roast goose with celery and nut crunch and for both children and adults to have fun.
For the inhabitants of Sant'Ambrogio di Fiera in the suburbs of Treviso near the River Sile, the San Luca Fair is a natural event, a fact of life you could say. The history of Fiera has always been inseparably linked to that of the fairs. You cannot imagine one without the other. The obvious turmoil caused every year by the influx of crowds of people attracted by the fair may cause problems to those living around or near the great Prato fairground. But at the same time they know that the fairs are inevitable. They are more or less consciously aware of the fact that they are part of a historical heritage and a custom they could not live without. So when the beginning of October brings the first fogs of autumn, they prepare to welcome them with serene resignation.
Today the San Luca Fair is a magnificent fête, packed with attractions for young and old alike. But in the Middle Ages during the first centuries of its history, the fair's aspect and importance were very different. It was basically a great famous annual market where sellers and buyers, sometimes from far away, met to trade all kinds of products.
The fair's origins as a trading institution go back a long way. The practice of holding fairs and markets was known to the Romans, the Greeks and other even older peoples. But it was perhaps in the Middle Ages that the fair reached the peak of its importance. Its establishment and rapid spread in numerous regions of Italy and other European countries was determined by that general revival which occurred in the West after the year 1000. The fair's great historical importance lies in the contribution it made to the transition from the closed economy typical of feudal societies to the new urban economy open to free trade between traders from near and far.
Fairs were held in the most important places in the city, generally churches or sanctuaries, and coincided with particular religious festivities, often lasting many days. It was therefore inevitable that they would go beyond the purely economic to become a great popular festivity. Money, religion and folklore in the life of the people therefore converged at these important events which were usually held each year. Thanks to their importance which generated a considerable income for the coffers of the local administration, fairs met with the favour and protection of those holding power. Rules and special statutes were published to guarantee the safety of those wanting to taking part, govern traders' behaviour and the sale of goods and rapidly resolve the controversies or quarrels which inevitably arose at the fairs themselves.
In common with other fairs in numerous northern Italian cities and helped by the particularly favourable location, the Treviso fair grew to remarkable dimensions. According to certain academics led by Marchesan, it was already in existence before the year 1000 and was held on the banks of the Sile near the city's port. How often it was held, what its characteristics were and how long it lasted in those far off times we do not know. It is mentioned only briefly in the first document proving its existence. This is a diploma drawn up by Berengar I, King of Italy in Verona's Church of San Zeno on 9 January 905. With the diploma, the King granted the Bishop of Treviso, Adalberto, a number of rights including two thirds of the taxes due on the "Port of Treviso market". This concession secured the Bishop possession of the entire benefits of the Fair, given that a further third of the taxes had already been granted to the Church of Treviso by Berenger's predecessors.