19 July 2011

the great naval battle of 1668

In case I wasn't clear in my last post, Morgano is one of several tiny towns around Treviso, which is a fairly prominent city in the Veneto (the region of Venice). It was even smaller than my hometown. The primary entertainment for our host siblings was to attend the traveling carnival, which was in the area the entire time we were. Yep, we went almost every night.

The best night at the carnival, or sagra, was its last night in Quinto di Treviso, when there was a massive fireworks display. Tess (Liam's lovely lady) and I were there, trying to keep each other entertained while we were surrounded by Italian teenagers with bad hair and tee shirts bearing English slogans that didn't make sense.

The fireworks spectacle began with a strange array of bobbing lights on the lake we were facing. At first I thought they were in boats, but we realized that they were actually being held up by people walking towards us in the water. Being the imaginative, theatrical types that we are, Tess and I started improvising a story about this grand Venetian tradition, and it goes a little something like this:

Many, many years ago (nearly 500 years ago, in fact), a group of travelers were sailing in search of a new land. Their cargo included a great deal of explosives, and in hindsight, that was a really horrible idea. Suddenly, they were attacked by a pirate ship. The pirates fired upon the travelers, resulting in a fantastic fireworks display. Eventually, the travelers were completely disarmed (by this we mean their actual limbs were removed, not their weapons), and had to swim ashore, waving their burning arms (yes, their own limbs) above their heads to light the way. Once they made it to dry land, they walked until they could walk no more, and when the finally collapsed, they named the location 'Morgano' after the pirate who had attacked them--Captain Henry Morgan.

Now, the descendants of those first settlers commemorate their ancestors' struggles annually by first reenacting the abandonment of the original ship and the subsequent march to shore, and then the naval battle. No one knows why the order has been reversed, but it's tradition. They reenact the battle by shooting fireworks across the lake to the other side, rather than straight up in the air. It was a pretty one-sided battle from what I could tell. They even set the cattails in the lake on fire to show us what the ship would have looked like as it sank.

Tess and I also considered the possibility that the fireworks tipped over, and that's why the cattails caught on fire and why the rockets were a little bit crooked, but we think our story offers a more interesting explanation.

Maybe the whole thing was a little silly, but do you know what I noticed on the wall of the staircase to my bedroom when I got home? A framed, completed jigsaw puzzle of a painting depicting a great naval battle, complete with burning ships.

Yep. The Great Naval Battle of '68.

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