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The island of Sardinia to the west of the Italian mainland (it's southwest of Rome) is among the most traditional regions of Italy and in fact of all Europe. So it's no surprise that this lovely region boasts a wide variety of spectacular Carnevales. Let's look at a few of them remembering that "once a year, you're allowed to go crazy" or as they said in Latin semel in anno licet insanire.
The village of Mamoiada home to some 2500 is situated about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Cagliari, the regional capital on the coast of southern Sardinia. Here Carnevale focuses on the parade of Juvanne Martis Sero (Johnny Tuesday Night). In this triste allegory Carnevale is dying while mourned by the numerous onlookers. In this event Tuesday refers to Shrove Tuesday and not Mardi Gras. Other Carnevale activities feature Mamutthones and Issohadores who are part man and part beast, evoking the time when animals ruled the earth. Mamoiada's recently opened Mediterranean Mask Museum traces the glorious history of local carnivals.
Oristano is a city of over thirty thousand located about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Cagliari on the western coast. It is home to La Sartiglia, a jousting tournament in which smartly dressed componidori (jockeys, or should I say knights?) riding richly decorated horses compete while standing in the saddle try to pierce silver stars, the more the merrier, with their swords. This ceremony has been going on for centuries. As with many other Carnivale activities, there is a mixture of Christian and pagan aspects.
Tempio Pausania, a town of some fourteen thousand in northeastern Sardinia, hosts a Carnevale whose central feature is a parade of floats in which "His Majesty Giorgio" is the undisputed king. Giorgio's mask sits on a throne for six days to the cheering of the crowds. But on Shrove Tuesday at sunset King Giorgio is put on trial for multiple crimes and misdemeanors and is burnt at the stake in the public square in front of forty to fifty thousand spectators. This Tempio Pausania Carnevale is no minor production and is a great way to symbolize the end of winter. Just so people don't get bored first loving then hating Giorgio, there are six nights of pre-trial parties and other festivities including activities for children. The trial theme is popular at Sardinian Carnevales. For example, in the town of Bosa, population eight thousand about two-thirds up the western coast, rag dolls are put on trial and burnt at the stake.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten
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