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Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Love Touring Italy - Carnevale in Molise

altilia in moliseImage by renatela via Flickr

Molise is a small region located in central Italy on the Adriatic Sea. Carnevale in this region tends to have somber aspects, arguably more so than in much of the rest of Italy. We'll do things a little different here than in most of our other articles of this series. We will focus on the most significant, often the darkest aspect of Carnevale as held in several Molise villages and small towns.

Castelnuovo del Volturno is a village of some 250 inhabitants. Carnevale here centers around a man in a deer costume, dressed in rough skins whose face is covered in black and sports horns. Deer Man struggles against a masked man known as "Pulcinella" and escapes looking for food. He is caught by an angry hunter who beats him. In another version Deer Man wreaks havoc among the cattle until he is stopped by the saintly Friar Martin. He is then resurrected, an act that purifies him and the entire community whose sins he symbolizes. The villages of Carpinone, Forli del Sannio, and Roccasicura put celebrate Carnevale by putting on trail a carnival puppet known as "Fantoccio". He is found guilty and burnt at the stake. In the village of Sant'Agapito his smouldering corpse is tossed off a cliff.

In the village of Tufara Carnevale begins with a street festival featuring joyous groups of painted, masked musicans. But storm clouds gather and a procession of the devil, the central figure of this Carnevale, accompanied by several figures dressed in white who keep him in chains until the evening's trail. Do you think you can you guess how the trial ends? Soldiers fire several live shots, just to make sure that this devil gets his due.

A not so violent activity is the "cheese game" held in the small town of Vinchiaturo. Competing teams throw large rounds of cheese down the street. Let's fervently hope that nobody gets hurt. Let's also hope that this delicious Italian cheese doesn't go to waste. Another gastronomical event is "La Raviolata". This event features the famous Scapoli ravioli, served to the hungry masses on the last Sunday of Carnevale in the village of that name.

For many Molise villages and towns Carnivale centers around a puppet dressed in black, with flax in his hand and a potato behind with seven chicken feathers attached. He is often suspended from balconies or from wires hanging in the yards. Even if it's after Carnevale don't miss the Good Friday processions in Campodipietra, Ferrazzano, Riccia, and Termoli.

Levi Reiss authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but would rather drink fine French wine with friends. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website and his global wine website featuring a weekly review of $10 wines and new sections writing about and tasting organic and kosher wines.



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