Carnival in Verona
The city of Verona hosts one of the oldest traditions still celebrated by the local community: the Carnival, also called “Bacanàl del Gnoco”, dates back to 1531, when the city was hit by a serious famine that caused the increase in the price of flour, to the point that the bakers were forced to block the production and sale of bread.
The population inevitably rebelled and, especially those who lived in the district of San Zeno, a district dedicated to the patron saint of Verona and then inhabited by less rich people, risked starving.
According to tradition, given the gravity of the situation, the nobleman Tommaso Da Vico managed to raise enough money during the year to donate to the less well-off the flour necessary for the preparation of gnocchi (potato dimples), a simple but at the same time nutritious dish. The same expressed in his will of death the desire to distribute for free to the inhabitants of San Zeno on the last Friday of Carnival – the so-called Venerdì Grasso (“Shrove Friday”) – bread, wine, flour, cheese and butter.
Thus was born the character that, even today, still opens the parade of masks in the streets of the city: the Papa del Gnoco, one of the oldest carnival masks in Italy. He’s an old man, with a Santa Claus style long white beard, dressed in a brocade hazelnut suit and a cloak, which proudly holds a large giant fork in which a large potato dumpling on top. He walks on foot or rides a mule, and gives the children candies and sweets; he’s followed by about sixty allegorical wagons and more than 6000 people dressed in masks.
The tradition for the families of our city to cook and eat dumplings on this day, which in 2019 will fall on March 1, therefore turns 489 years old this year.
The Carnival in Verona has developed in every city district, so that each district has its own mask, invented or inspired by an actual character.
But who plays the role of the Papa del Gnoco? The guy who leads the parade Friday is elected by the city’s population casting a ballot, which ends w
ith the election in the district square and a course a gnocchi feast.
When we say “Veronesi tutti matti” (People of Verona is crazy), this tradition gives a confirmation!
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