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The bilingual (Italian and German) region of Trentino-Alto Adige is on the border of Switzerland and Austria in northeast Italy. Given its heavily Germanic character don't be surprised that Carnevale here is fairly unique.
The village of Valfloriana population about 500 is located some 15 miles (25 kilometers) northeast of Trento. Its Matoci Carnival is named after comical characters dressed in colorful outfits, festooned with bright ribbons and traditional wooden masks that cover their faces, known as "facere". One of the most spectacular events during the carnival period is the "Descent of the Matoci", a tradition here and in surrounding villages. A masked procession leaves the villages to meet at a village square. This descent symbolizes the return to normal life after a difficult winter spent in isolation. There's music, dancing, and sweets and a masked ball at night.
The village of Campitello di Fassa, population about 750, is located some 40 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of Trento as the crow flies, add about 40% if the crow has to take a car. Its Carnevale respects the inhabitants' Ladin origins. Ladin is a language unlike Latin or Ladino. One of the best ways for outsiders to catch a glimpse of this culture is to attend this Carnevale or similar ones in nearby villages such as Penia. You'll love the parade of "Bufon, Marascons and Lache". "Bufon" sports a cone shaped headpiece and long-nosed mask, calls out the vices and virtues of the local populace. You'll enjoy the spectacle, even if you don't know a word of the language.
The upscale winter resort of Madonna di Campiglio, home to about a thousand people, some 55 miles (90 kilometers) southwest of Bolzano, was a favorite of Emperor Franz Joseph and his hangers-on. If you want a taste of that rarified atmosphere don't miss its Hapsburg Carnival. If and when you want to change the air there is great skiing and trekking.
Would you believe a carnival that focuses on a tree? Such is the case for the Grauno Carnivale held in a Val di Cembra village of under 700 some twenty miles (thirty kilometers) north of Trento. The show reflects pre-Christian ancient rites of atonement and fertilization. In the early morning of Mardi Gras the young villagers cut down the most beautiful tree in the forest, remove its branches drag it to the "Busa del Carnival" (a burrow set on high ground), and set it on fire.
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 www.travelitalytravel.com and his global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com featuring a weekly review of $10 wines and new sections writing about and tasting organic and kosher wines.