Just like it used to be before the pandemic, Liguria got to celebrate Carnival again and this holiday takes place exactly forty days before Easter, as part of our Lent tradition.
Carnival fills the streets with large floats parading in the main streets and people dressed up for the occasion. During parade days (which were extended to every weekend in February this year) the streets are filled with confetti and streamers thrown by strolling children dressed as their favorite idols: boys become characters such as superheroes or firefighters and girls enjoy playing the role of princesses or cartoon fairies. The older kids tend to wear masks of video game characters while some adults choose to wear masks of politicians, obviously as a satire on the Italian and world political situation.
As per tradition the floats are made with papier-mâché and the manufacturing of papier-mâché in Liguria is linked to an ancient artistic tradition.
During the carnival period, in particular in Genoa and Loano, but not only, it is possible to attend the parade of allegorical floats with these colorful and impressive artistic sculptures made of papier-mâché which enchant young and old spectators.
The artisans, thanks to a dough made with simple ingredients, give life to refined and amazing creations: the dough is normally prepared with recycled materials such as old newspapers, flour, water and glue and it is very malleable, unbreakable and resistant. Tons of newspapers, tens of kilos of flour, plenty of glue and brightly colored paints are the necessary ingredients to make and decorate the different sculptures.
But the fundamental ingredient is the creativity of papier-mâché masters: in the parades we see a parade of floats with different themes from each other and they normally follow a theme decided months in advance by the municipality or the different associations participating in the event.
Designing floats require very long preparation times and they are usually representing animals or Carnival characters but, at time, also grotesque politicians are portrayed in ironic masks with special effects such as smoky settings.
I have attended the carnival in Loano and to inaugurate it they had the handing over of the keys of the city to the official mask of the Carnival: this ceremony kicked off the grand parade, which attracted many associations of street artists from all over Italy. They also had face painting, activities dedicated to children, pinatas and gadgets to give to the people.
Another carnival celebration that has no equal in Liguria, linked to traditions that are lost in past centuries, is the Carnival of the Beautiful and the Ugly in the heart of the Val di Vara.
Tradition has it that the boys dress up in the same costumes used by their fathers and grandfathers. The Beautiful wear brightly colored and floral dresses, rich in bows and bells, on their heads they have hats covered in fabric, decorated with long colorful ribbons, lace and beads.
The Ugly wear goat or sheep skins, on their heads they have long and thick horns and their face is painted black or covered with masks with dark and surly features. They wear cowbells tied to their waists, which they constantly shake as they walk. They parade through the streets of the town, stop at every house and while the owner prepares them refreshments to appease them, the beautiful ones make the women of the family dance, while the ugly ones spare no jokes and pranks.
At nightfall they all meet to have dinner together and many stands sell food and drinks for everyone to eat together at long tables set in town.
Parade with floats
Parade with floats