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Carnival, popular inebriation

In Italy the Carnival is a very ancient and loved tradition that features plenty of parades with allegorical floats along the main towns and villages from the Alps to the Mediterranean sea, in the futuristic Milan of the Expo and around the Colosseo as well as in the small and amazing villages. But which is the most lively, loved and shared Carnival? 

 The Venice Carnival is with no doubt the most famous but the oldest one is the Carnival of Fano - in the province of Pesaro and Urbino: the first writings about this carnival go back to the first half of the XIVth century. The most waited moment from the Carnival of Fano is the “throw” when tons of sweets are thrown from the allegorical floats: this is a good reason to take part in the Carnival that is the true expression of the people’s good mood surrounded by papier-mâché characters, the giants of laugh and the satire from all over the world offered by the “Fano Funny Festival” – and a lot of fun. And a marry-go-lucky spirit also features the Venice Carnival, it is an attraction for thousands of people every year who celebrate the Carnival under a shower of confetti. Besides the many cultural initiatives at a very high level, the single masks are really beautiful and they are based upon fanciful interpretations of the ancient splendour of the Venetian Republic. And the modern protagonists of the “Compagnie della calza” – that once attended the carnival parties, offer a number of theatre shows that make visitors happy.

Let’s move from the lagoon’s water to the Tuscan sea and stop in a very famous town that is called Viareggio that instead of showing its beach umbrellas and its Liberty memories, it parades its famous allegorical floats in Winter. This is the landmark of Viareggio Carnival that was born at the end of the XIXth century as a parade of masked floats and carriages in order to show the allegorical scenes. In 1930 Uberto Bonetti, a futurist painter and graphic artist invented the Burlamacco: this mask symbolizing the city of Viareggio, he used to appeared with Ondina, a typical Summer swimmer, on the poster of 1931, in the background of the docks plunging into the sea.  Bonetti aimed at showing through this mask the two most important moments of the life of Viareggio: Summer – with the white and red colours of beach umbrellas in the 1930s and the Carnival. Nowadays you can see “top quality” floats, 20 meters high and other floats that are 9 metres high. The floats look like a boat’s sections such as the stern, the bow, the bridge, the deck, the crow’s nest and the crew. The parade also includes floats that take inspiration from the political satire as well as masked parties and all kinds of exhibitions.

The scent of the sea comes also from the Carnival of Acireale, in the province of Catania: the first parades of papier-mâché characters go back to 1880 while in 1930 the huge floats made of flowers first appeared. The event also includes shows of dialect poets, games and cookery competitions. From the old Trinacria you can move to Sardinia where Oristano stands out and features its “Sartiglia”, the horse parade with a Spanish origin that dates back to the Middle Ages. The Sartiglia is the typical Carnival from Oristano, an old event rich of traditions. The Carnival of Putignano, in the province of Bari, is a celebration of happy feelings and it has had a Summer edition since 2006. Farinella – reminding a “jolly” wearing a multicoloured patchwork dress with jingle bells on the three edges of its hat and its shoes, is the typical mask of this Carnival that starts on the 26th of December! The Carnival of Cento, in the province of Ferrara is organized by the different town’s districts and it’s featured by huge papier-mâché allegorical floats and masks who throw all kinds of sweets. This Carnival has got very old origins as it is shown by a number of frescoes by the painter Giovanni Francesco Barbieri called Guercino.

The Carnival of Ivrea, in the province of Turin – took inspiration from an historical fact, the uprising of people against the Earl Raineri of Biandrate. The leading lady of the carnival is the Miller who is sided by the General who has been in charge with the “correct performing of the event” since the first years of the XIXth century”, together with his Napoleonic Staff made of horse officers and the food-taker. The core of this Carnival is the “Battaglia delle arance” (the battle of oranges) a merry competition among the throwers of oranges who symbolize the rebellion of people and the characters on the floats who symbolize the dictator’s guards. All citizens and visitors go along the streets on the Fat Thursday wearing the “Berretto Frigio”, a red cap shaped as a sock which symbolizes their desire for freedom.

 The Carnival of Verres from the Aosta Valley dates back to the XVth century. The Great Chamberlain is surrounded by the armed guards, the archers and the flagpoles and he goes down the staircase of the Chanoux square, he calls the coming of the lady of the castle and her husband then he opens the celebration and people can start dancing and partying. This event goes on until the fat Tuesday when the mask ball takes place in the castle. The Carnival of Sauris, in the province of Udine is famous for its wooden masks and the typical costumes that are made of all kinds of used recycled materials. The most famous masks are the “Rölar” and the “Kheirar”. The most important day of this Carnival is the Saturday before the Ash Wednesday when a masked procession opens a charming night walk lighted by the lanterns on the “Lanterns Night”.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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