Tired of the usual Carnival? Come to Piedmont!
Loved by adults and, above all, by children, Carnival is the occasion to let your imagination run wild with bright colours, sparkling clothes and colourful masks. This holiday could be the right occasion to lift our spirits and enjoy ourselves during this time indoors. But wait: abandon the idea of putting on your Zorro costume and throwing confetti. Because there is not only one Carlavé – Carnival – in Piedmont: depending on where you are, you can experience a unique moment unlike any other. You will be amazed by the multitude of pastimes and traditions!
So what to do? Let’s immerse ourselves in this adventure characterised by many laughs and twists! First of all, I advise you to prepare a rucksack with a variety of items: binoculars, oranges, a black top hat with a cloak, water and a sandwich (mask and disinfectant). While you’re getting all these things, I’ll explain the meaning of the name “Carnival”: not everyone knows that it derives from the Latin expression “carrum novalis” (naval chariot), i.e. a kind of allegorical float, in the shape of a boat, with which the Romans inaugurated commemorations.
To follow this definition, the first stop will be at Oleggio (Vlesch in Oleggio dialect, Olegg in Piedmontese): a town in Alto Piemonte with a population of around 14,000, it is known above all as the “City of Milk”. There would be much more to say, but this time we came to see the floats. Bring binoculars, you’ll need them to see these masterpieces made of only iron and wood when you’re in the middle of a packed crowd. This parade of floats is a real event for the people of Oleggio, a tradition that has become very famous for its large number of participants! What a lot of work goes into building them, but especially into assembling all the pieces. But there is no time to lose, so let’s get down to Ivrea, in Basso Piemonte.
Among the various commemorations – almost all of them in a virtual version this year – the Ivrea Carnival is perhaps the most historical. The carnival of memories comes alive with parades, folklore events and historical re-enactments, and is so popular that it has never stopped since the post-war period – apart from 1960, the year in which the much-loved Adriano Olivetti passed away, go and read the article here on Piedmont Delights if you don’t know who he was! The most famous event of the Carnaval, however, is the famous, very famous Battle of the Oranges (that’s why I told you to arm yourself with this agurmo!): brave orange-throwers on foot, representing the revolt of the people, challenge the chariots of the feudal lord, the tyrant’s armies, to the sound of oranges: three days, from Sunday to Shrove Tuesday, where everyone is fighting and where there are plenty of laughs.
Speaking of “fruity” fights, Borgosesia also has a tradition of citrus fruit fights: the mandarinata, a battle that follows the tradition of the illustrious people of Eporeda and that also ends with characters dressed in a thousand shades of orange. The Valsesia town, which takes the name of Magunopoli during carnival time and whose first parade dates back to 1854(!), however, has a tradition all of its own: the Mercu Scûrot. When Lent begins, on Ash Wednesday, and the festivities are supposed to come to an end, well here the fun begins! And what fun! Take the clothes I told you about out of your rucksack, because they are all dressed in black tailcoat, top hat, cape and white “galla” (a white gauze bow tie). The funeral procession of the local mask, the Peru, wanders through the streets of the borg, consoling itself by drinking wine. Around their necks they wear the cassu, a wooden ladle with which they can drink to their heart’s content. But that’s not all: in the evening, Peru’s will is read, his mask is burned and the fireworks begin.
But it is to Turin that we must go to find a carnival figure linked to us all: Gianduja. Hands up who does not know gianduiotti, exquisite chocolate delicacies from Piedmont. They are a delight for the palate, a fairytale of flavours that melts in your mouth and has no equal – have you tried ours? That’s why I told you to bring a sandwich, chocolate and bread are a great snack while you discover their history.
Our Gianduiotti by Calcagno 1946 were named after the mask of the Turin carnival of 1865
I believe that the world could not go on without a bit of chocolate, and in fact this tasty treat was born from the need to fill the growing demand for chocolate at the end of the 19th century: having little available, due to the blockade imposed by Napoleon, it was decided to “fill” the gap by replacing a part of cocoa with delicious hazelnuts from the Langhe, with a strong and delicate taste; in the mixture you will find hazelnuts, cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar. The first chocolate to be individually wrapped, the gianduiotto was presented to the public during the 1865 carnival and has since become a legend.
Or enough is enough, would the cultured – and Piedmontese – Umberto Eco have said in the face of such bravado. But deep down, we are proud of our uniqueness, of our desire to combine passion and pleasure, always putting the heart first.
– Until next time, With love!