Carnevale is just around the corner. Store fronts are filled with glittery masks and brightly colored costumes and bakeries are showcasing the typical holiday fried fare consisting of crostoli, bugie ripiene, frittole, castagnole and other goodies! Everywhere you walk, you see the remnants of early celebrations; confetti and streamers scattered and balled up in street corners.
The Carnevale tradition in the Friuli Venezia Giulia is steeped in pagan roots and influences ranging from ancient folklore to the more traditional Commedia dell’Arte mixed with tinges of Venetian, Northern and East European traditions. The beginning of Carnevale season in this region officially begins on January 5th with the “liberation of the Pust”. This tradition takes place in several towns but most famously in the town of Nimis. Here the townsfolk enter a small cave and light a fire to wake and warm up the spirit of Carnevale or as it is known in Slovenian, the Pust. Asleep in chains and underground for one year, the Pust (usually played by a townsperson) is awakened, wrangled out of its cave and paraded around the town at night. The townspeople dress in old-time costumes and follow along singing while holding candles and torches. The Pust is brought to the local bar and is offered some good red wine to revive it. Eventually the Pust is freed from his chains and finally everyone gathers in the town square to watch him light the “Palavìn”, a bonfire signifying the start of the Carneval season.
Around Trieste there are 3 main and much anticipated celebrations which are, the Carnevale Carsico up in Opicina, the Carnevale de Muja in the seaside town of Muggia and Il Carnevale di Trieste.
This year marks the 51st Carnevale Carsico (of the Karst) in Opicina. It will begin on the Feb 7th – 8:30pm; Feb 8 – 7:00pm; Feb 9 – 7:30pm and the main event will be held Feb 10 – 2:00pm. Featuring a parade rich with elaborate costumes and enormous floats this Carneval a focal point. It also boasts daylong activities for children and families as well as lots of local food and music making it a crowd pleaser every year. Festivities continue until Feb 14.
The seaside town of Muggia holds its celebrations from Feb 8-11. Feb 8 – 3:45pm festivities begin with rides and games for kids, at 5pm is the opening of the 65th edition of the Carneval de Muja with dances and parties and live music to continue throughout the evening with “Aperitivo in Maschera” (essentially masquerade happy hour) which is an annual constant and highlight; Feb 9 – all day events starting at 10:00 am into the evening ; Feb 11 – 10:30 historic tour of Muggia (firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve) followed by the annual Carneval parade at 1:00pm; Awards at 6:30pm and more partying into the evening. Festivities continue until Ash Wed on Feb 14.
In Trieste, the 27th edition of Carnevale celebrations start Thursday February 8 through Tues February 13. The week leading up to the main event, Trieste neighborhoods hold their own celebrations and parades. This “Palio” sees who can come up with the best, theme, costume and “carri” (2018 will be the first time there will be no floats as no site was designated by the city to store and construct them over the winter). There are also many events held throughout the city to cater to everyone from kids to couples. The parade occurs on Martedi’ Grasso (Fat Tuesday, this year falls on the 13th) starting from Piazza Oberdan at 2:00 pm and winds around the city to end up in Piazza Unita’. Trieste famously claims credit for being the birthplace of “confetti” . The story goes that in 1876 a young 14 yr-old Ettore Fenderl, from the window of his house overlooking Piazza della Borsa, (the one over Desigual) was so caught up in the excitement of the parade passing below — and lacking the customary rose petals and candies — he hastily tore up pieces of paper and showered them on the celebrants below. Other spectators nearby copied him and soon a trend was born. Fenderl grew up to be a celebrated nuclear physicist who created the first laboratory for research into radioactivity in 1926 in Rome.
There are many Carnevale celebrations in nearby towns hugging the Slovenian border have folkloric celebrations like the Pust, which merit a visit to see the varied traditions of the region. There is the famed Blumari race in Montefosca where young, single men dress in white from head to toe wearing elaborate floral headdresses (Blume in German means flower). They race through the countryside (it is symbolic of the arrival of Springtime) and the winner is the gentleman who comes back with the least amount of dirt on his clothes.
Jutalan and Dar Mashkar are the beauty and the beasts of Carnevale in Timau. The Jutalan are elegant & graceful veiled figures who silently pirouette throughout the town whereas the Dar Mashkars are scary, Krampus-like creatures. In Sauris you can see the typical wooden masks typical of the region. While Carnevale is celebrated everywhere in Italy, every town, every region has it’s own traditions and festivities and each one reveals its cultural core and heritage.