Who hasn’t wished, at least once, to see a fairy, a magician, an acrobat on the wire… or an angel? Mercantia is a fairy tale, where artists come from far away, from four continents, to perform and participate in the international street theater festival, which returns every year, in the days of plenty. In the warm nights of July, we witness a unique event of its kind. The squares and alleys are invaded by jugglers, mimes, equilibrists, fire eaters, clowns. Without forgetting puppet theater, research and performance, prose and cabaret, dance, contemporary art installations and live craftsmanship, lots of public and good food. All enclosed in the wonderful location of the medieval village of Certaldo Alto.
Located in the center of the Valdelsa, of Etruscan-Roman origins, Certaldo is the town that gave birth to Giovanni Boccaccio. But the main artistic and architectural feature, which made it known and famous in Europe, is the perfect preservation of the medieval urban fabric, which has remained the same as then, with its narrow streets and small squares scattered here and there.
In these days the town is transformed, becoming a sort of suspended village, where time and space mix through the charms and shows of the numerous and talented artists who perform. The poetic idea of Alessandro Gigli, artistic director, has always been to create an open space, a crossroads where you can free yourself and daydream.
The festival has been defined as a Fourth Theater, with the aim of overcoming genre labels and with the desire to explore a fourth dimension, made of magic and renewal.
Five hundred street artists, ninety theater companies, from all over the world, and forty spaces for over one hundred shows a day, a total of about 60,000 estimated people passing through Certaldo: these are the numbers of Mercantia.
A festival, which more than a review is a “party of encounters”, of artists who meet, of the public that feels a guest here, an abundant and ritual, regenerating event that celebrates humanity through theater and to which every year those who practice or simply follow these shows, do not want and cannot miss them.
Another important aspect of this event consists in the active participation of its countless spectators, invited to get involved and get lost in the places they prefer, without the obligation of timetables and additional tickets to the entrance. It is not uncommon for someone to be called by the audience as an assistant and participant in a show and, trust me, it is always an emotion that goes beyond the first moment of embarrassment.
An immense amount of people with the difficult task of choosing the shows to participate in and the roads to follow. The regret is always the same: watching a performance with the awareness of losing as many around the country, hidden in secret gardens or courtyards, so vast is the program. Impossible to see them all, given that in one evening there are more than 80.
In the meantime, fantastic creatures and multitudes of artists on stilts, dressed as clouds, parade up and down the streets of the town, inviting the viewer to travel with them on a journey into the world of dreams.
From a distance you can see white balloons floating above people’s heads, and soap bubbles scattered everywhere, on the ground instead a myriad of white cards with phrases and thoughts written by children.
On the sides of the streets and at all the alleys, stalls of artisans of all kinds: leather work, colorful lamps, leather masks with fantastic, sometimes frightening subjects, books, hats and much more …
A city in celebration, a unique event, not to be missed.
“Once again we polish our clubs and unicycles and spit the fire, we peacemakers, innocent and scratchy little children who play at the theater and fill the squares, while other cathedrals remain empty, we continue to dance and make our voices heard! There is no theater in Mercantia, there is life, the theater is just an explosion of the vital energy that flows in the arteries and streets of the Festival. ”