The second weekend in March, late winter on two balmy global warming days, saw the Italian Cross Country Championships in the centre of decorators of ceramics, Nove, in north east Italy near Marostica and Bassano del Grappa.
Thousands of runners of most ages, blisters, sprains, free fruit, blood donations and a smattering of the art of Nove, hand painted ceramics, in the gazebos on the bridge over the Brenta, the original pre-historic source of the clays of the Nove area.
For the statistically bent observer, our friends at Veneto Marketing informed us that the runners would cover 9 million metres of grass, making one feel a little sorry for the blades underfoot. Somewhere over 13km of plastic tape was unrolled and spread around the tracks to separate the lanes and about 500 road maintenance style metal separators barred the spectators from key running lanes.
Energitismo was there as one of the sponsors supported by our major partner, D’Orica, producers of Living Jewellery, led by Gianpietro Zonta, with elegant sustainable lunches by Daniela, his wife.
Beside us at the back of his gazebo sat a gentleman at a painting bench, wisely, as I later learned to my chagrin, wearing a deerstalker hat. A large plate sat on a section the bench, held there by the rim so that he could put it at an angle to paint. Generously proportioned and dressed, to my view, as a country squire might when just past his most elegant days, he lightly caressed the plate with a fine brush dipped in his blue raw glaze, creating the petal of a flower.
All weekend he painted, not being diverted by colleagues from the gazebos further onto the bridge over the Brenta leading to Rosà. Occasionally, a potential client would engage him in discussion concerning one or more of the jars, bowls, vases, large plates or table ware, mostly colour blends between yellow and blue, but then those passionate about cross-country running are not a perfect match for those who collect fine painted ceramic ware, and I was left a little sadder each time a customer came and passed by, and a little redder in the face from the unforeseen strength of the northern Italian UV spectrum.
Like most of his compatriots he had a generous streak, sharing the local white wine and, at the end of the events, it was soothing for the soul to see six of these painters sitting at a quickly set up dining table sharing a late lunch of home-made gems with a few sips of wine, as their works slowly ’baked’ in the sun. A weekend of camaraderie, but virtually bereft of financial reward must epitomize the lives of these traditionalists who protect the old ceramic arts that made Nove famous worldwide.
I look forward to mid September in Nove, when the annual ceramic fair is held and the clientele will hopefully really appreciate the efforts of these humble men and women who for fifty years or more have sat at their benches and created their coloured designs with passion, infinite care, precision and perseverance.