Calabria forms the foot of the Italian boot. This region is in the heart of the Mezzogiorno, the south of Italy. Who would expect to find an Albanian Carnival here? Who would expect to find an African Carnevale here? Keep on reading to learn about some of the most distinctive Carnevales in all Europe.
San Demetrio Corone is a village of under four thousand people in Calabria facing the Apennine Mountains and the Ionian Sea. It was founded more than five hundred years ago by Albanians who were fleeing an Ottoman invasion. Despite the centuries the townsfolk have managed to keep their Albanian language and customs while becoming Italians.
On the first Saturday of Carnival they celebrate the “Feste dei Morti.” The poor and children go from house by house collecting alms. Then they march to the local cemetery where food and drink is served surrounded by the gravestones. The food known as “Colivi” is made from boiled wheat and was eaten at Paleo-Christian funerals.
In the nearby village of Saracena, population about four thousand, named for the Arabs who formerly ruled this part of the world, the Festa di San Leone (Feast of St. Leon) starts with candlelight procession from the church of that name accompanied by music made with traditional musical instruments. Then comes the “Fucarazzi'” (bonfire) at dusk that stays lit all night long while the inhabitants and guests enjoy the ritual food and drink.
Another Albanian Carnevale in Calabria is held in the village of Lungro many of whose three thousand some inhabitants speak a dialect of Albanian. The villagers celebrate Carnevale by parading in traditional Albanian costumes. In northern Calabria, the city of Montalto Uffugo (population about seventeen thousand) holds an interesting parade of men wearing women’s dresses. They hand out sweets and tastes of Pollino wine.
Following the parade, the kings and queens arrive for a night of dancing wearing costumes that include giant heads. Actually cross dressing is a popular Calabrian Carnevale theme for both men and women as are the ancient Commedia dell’Arte farces in which Carnival is dying, surrounded by busy but hopelessly ineffectual doctors. The funeral is grotesque and ends with a huge bonfire.
The town of Castrovillari, population well over twenty thousand on the northern border of Calabria, holds its Carnival of Pollino. The women dress in intricate traditional costumes and both the men and women celebrate the Pollino wine of the region, Lacrima di Castrovillari. But there’s more. This Carnevale now includes a children’s carnival and an International Folklore Festival with Jazz concerts and multiple events devoted to African, Afro-American, and Afro-Brazilian culture. The times they are a’changing.
Author: Levi Reiss authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but would rather drink fine French, German, or other wine, paired with the right foods. He loves teaching computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website www.travelitalytravel.com and his wine, diet, health, and nutrition website www.wineinyourdiet.com.