So carnival came and went – from Fat Thursday to Fat – or Shrove – Tuesday, an endless amount of dancing, parading and eating took place, before Ash Wednesday finally set in and marked the start of Lent. Now, for the next six months we will be constantly finding confetti falling out of the most unthinkable (and unexplainable!) places, because for the five wild days we were literally showering in it! As tradition commands, the witch-dummy was burned in the middle of the town square on Tuesday evening, after which carnival was officially dead.
But how about we take a look around Italy, and see how carnival is celebrated in other areas, because believe us – we are certainly not the only crazy ones! Of course the first famous city that comes to mind is Venice, where carnival has been celebrated for over 900 years, and although this year, for security reasons, no more than 20 thousand spectators were allowed in Piazza San Marco for each of the two main events, this didn’t dampen the general enthusiasm. The first event was “The flight of the eagle”, featuring Renzo Rosso (founder of the world renowned “Diesel” designer clothing), who slid down a steel rope, gliding over the twenty thousand onlookers from the top of the bell tower to the square. Awaiting him on the stage were two figures with enormous papier maché heads impersonating Donald Trump and the north Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who promptly launched the dances to the notes of “All You Need Is Love”.
The other much-anticipated and spectacular event was “The flight of the angel”, a moving experience which traditionally marks the official opening to the Carnival of Venice. The lovely 19 year old Elisa Costantini, winner of the “Maria” contest last year, gracefully slid down the steel rope, symbolizing an angel of peace in purgatory, dressed in a beautiful red and blu costume – colors which represent change. Her flight was accompanied by Schubert’s “Ave Maria”, sung by Luciano Pavarotti and the late Dolores O’ Riordan. During the six days, there are historical re-enactments of battles, processions along the canals of richly- attired “maschere”(masked people) on traditional Venetian gondolas, contests awarding the best costumes and masks…. and much more.
The next most famous carnival in Italy is the one held at Viareggio, on the Versilian coast of Tuscany. It has been going strong for 140 years, and is known nowadays mainly for its pungently satirical floats, based around politicians, tv and sports personalities or actors. This ironic version was apparently started in 1973 by a group of youngsters as a form of protest. The floats parade on several different days, there is a prize for the winning idea, and the whole thing is topped off with an astounding firework display.
Both Venice and Viareggio are worth a visit at any time of the year, and can be reached in a day trip starting off from Bedonia.
The carnival of Putignano, the longest in Europe, reached its 624th edition this year. From the 26th of Dicember until Shrove Tuesday, endless rites, traditions and parades are carried out, in a continuous mixture of sacred and pagan customs. After the 17th of January (Sant’Antonio Abate), the Thursdays of every week become the centre of attention; whilst in the past, Thursday evenings meant feasts and masked balls in the poorer quarters of the city, nowadays it’s all about irreverent social satire. Every week, a certain social category is picked on, always in a very strict order; first it’s archbishops, then priests, then follow nuns, widowers and “pazzi” – which translated literally means “the mad ones”, but in this context refers to young unmarried people – then married women, and last of all the “cornuti” (men who have been betrayed by their wives) – better known as married men! As Thursday after Thursday go by, Shrove Tuesday and the end of carnival finally come along. Before midnight, the people of Putignano crowd into the main square, eating fuming plates of maccheroni and dancing to the music, while the “Campana dei Maccheroni” (maccheroni bell) tolls 365 times during the last hour of the day. At which point, carnival is officially dead, and Lent begins.
There are many other well-known crazy celebrations up and down the country, but maybe you would do better to come and investigate for yourself!!