Soul of the event since its first edition, extraordinary intuition of the goldsmith master Alberto Zucchetta, honorary citizen of Valeggio sul Mincio.
At the end of the thirteenth century, many wars were plaguing northern Italy, especially in the Veneto region near the banks of the Mincio River. A nobleman by the name of Viscount Giangaleazzo, known as the “Count of Virtue”, ordered that a military encampment be set up overlooking the banks of the river that flowed through the town of Valeggio. When not guarding the river agaist foreign enemies, the troops were entertained by a court jester. One day he retold an old tale of beautiful nymphs who many said lived just beneath the surface of the water, but who because of an ancient curse were changed into horrible-looking witches condemned to live forever in the darkest recesses beneath the water. From time to time these witches broke the spell and emerged from the water to dance on the river’s edge.
That night while the soldiers fell into a deep sleep, the witches appeared and danced among them. Only the captain of the troop, whose name was Malco, slept fitfully and awoke to see them. Startled by their presence, Malco, tried to confront them, but they began to flee, and as they did one of them lost her cloak and was revealed as the beautiful nymph Silvia. Malco was immediately smitten by her and was cast under her spell, and during the course of one evening they professed their love for each other.
Malco begged Silvia to remain with him forever, but she needed to return to the river before dawn or she would change from a beauty into a haggard witch. Before disappearing she gave Malco a handkerchief tied in a knot as a symbol of undying love. The next day the count gave a party in the palace for his troops. He invited some dancers to entertain them. Malco, still reeling from his encounter with Silvia the night before, was stunned as he recognized her as one of the dancers. Also at the party was the count’s cousin Isabella, who had always been secretly in love with Malco. She could sense that something special existed between him and Silvia.
She became so jealous that she immediately told her cousin that Silvia was not an invited performer but a witch. The count stopped the entertainment and immediately gave the order to arrest Silvia. Malco, wanting to save his love from harm, impetuosly lunged between Silvia and the guards, allowing her time to escape. For his actions, Malco was seized and imprisoned. That night Isabella came to Malco’s prison cell to beg forgiveness from him for betraying Silvia: while they were talking, Silvia emerged one more time from the river to rescue her beloved.
Isabella felt such remorse, seeing their undying love for one another, that she helped them escape. When the news reached the count, an order was issued for the troops to find the lovers and kill them. Silvia pleaded with Malco to come and live with her beneath the river, because only there could they be together forever. Malco did not hesitate for a moment, and he and Silvia disappeared into the Mincio.
On the banks of the river the troops found a golden knotted silk handkerchief, the symbol of two lovers for eternity. This story is still retold today on the banks of the Mincio during holidays when a special pasta is made in honor of Silvia and Malco. The dough is golden yellow and as soft as silk. The pasta is cut and stuffed with a delicate filling, then tied into a knot.
And this is the legend of the tortellino of Valeggio.