Valfloriana (Trentino) – Upon first glance, the cluster of homes against a backdrop of alpine mountain made it seem as if we had never left the chestnut forest. At the turn-off leading into the village, a large vinyl banner welcomed visitors to the celebration which occurs each year on Fat Saturday, but unless you were already familiar with this tradition, you would never believe what colorful, boisterous fun awaits at Carnevale dei Matoci. This is the first carnevale I know of where the procession itself takes at least 7 hours minimum from start to finish. On Sabato Grasso – Fat Saturday (this year February 13th) – the residents belonging to the municipality of Valfloriana reenact their own unique tradition that deeply underlines the importance of familial rites of passage from father to son.
Starting from the hamlet furthest up the mountain (Sicina), a procession of flamboyant, masked characters travel from village to village every hour. With cowbells clanging loudly to announce their imminent arrival, the Matóci are always first to lead as they are responsible for obtaining entrance through a “blockade” of sorts that bars them from continuing on to the main square. To do just that, they engage in light-hearted repartee with the townsmen – a funny, animated scene (seen in the video at the end) that is spoken in almost pure dialect that not even my husband could follow well. Finally, when the falsetto-voiced Matóc is granted entry, the rest of the parade participants are able to walk in.
The Arlecchini and the Cumpagnia
The Harlequin dancers and the rest of the wooden-masked group follow shortly thereafter. In this display of hand-carved wooden masks, italian pride, expert craftmanship, and love of heritage shine abundantly through. I thought the young Matoci were especially adorable (photo at the end).
When I initially read the program of events the thought of free eats didn’t even occur to me, but as with many of these festive affairs, food is always offered. At each of the stopovers there was bread, wurstel, barley soup and canederli, a type of bread dumpling in clear broth. We made it in time for polenta e luganega (polenta and sausage) but did not stay on until the evening. Of course if you’re in the giving spirit, a small donation box is set up to defray costs.