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By Anthony Parente
Carnevale is a magical time in Italy. The entire country celebrates this long-standing tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. It is an opportunity for Italians to have one big celebration before the start of the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Towns all over Italy celebrate this event in their own unique way. The comune of Canale d'Agordo in the province of Belluno within the Veneto region is no different as they celebrate La Zinghenésta during carnevale. The first Zinghenésta was in 1850 and it continued to 1915. There was a long period that the town did not have this event until it was revived again in 1990, but that only lasted to 2001. Fortunately, the town brought back this event in 2013 and hopefully it will remain an annual event for everyone to enjoy.
Photo © Alessandro Sogne
On the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday a parade which starts in the comune of Falcade (about 4 km west of Canale d'Agordo) traveling through the comune of Caviola will make its way to the Casa delle Regole in Canale d'Agordo. It is here where everyone will see who the special committee selected as this year's Zinghenésta. The Zinghenésta is the most beautiful girl in the land and she is the queen of the festival. She appears beautifully dressed in a white corset and pleated skirt adorned with colorful handkerchiefs, ribbons, pendants and necklaces. She wears the typical Cappello dei Coscritti, a black hat with colored paper roses all around the brim. Her legs are covered with red and white striped socks and she wears black shoes with bells on them as she holds a bouquet of flowers in her hand.
The main attraction is la Zinghenésta but there are many other characters that take part in the parade. There is the i Matièi who wears a long conical hat, a wooden mask painted white, a long white untucked shirt, knickers, a red sock on the right and a blue one on the left. The entire outfit is adorned with ribbons and handkerchiefs. I Matièi carries a long stick with ribbons and bells. This character can be seen in other Carnevale in the Dolomites area. I Lacchè has all the characteristics of i Matièi except he wears a hat and carries a smaller stick. You won't miss i Pùster because they wear very ugly looking masks and dress in tattered worn clothes. If you are in the crowd you may get a visit from Il Paiàzo. They will have a conical hat with feathers, a neutral colored tunic decorated with flowers and ribbons while wearing a wooden mask with a mustache and carrying a staff with bells. The people dressed in black with a top hat and their face covered in soot are gli Spazzacamini (chimney sweeps). You can spot i Bèr. They are pastoral figures who wear conical hats covered in animal hide, dressed in all white with animal hide on their shoulders and waist holding a thick wooden staff. They do not do much dancing because they want the bells attached to their waist to all ring in unison.
Photo © Alessandro Sogne
The Zinghenésta will lead the parade dancing through the streets until they reach the Piazza Papa Luciani, which is named after Albino Luciani (Pope John Paul I) who was born in the town. Once everyone has arrived at the Piazza a trial will take place. Judge, jury and witnesses will all take part as the defendant, whom the locals refer to as "El Carnevale", will be charged with crimes/faults that have happened to the town the previous year. The defendant is pretty much blamed for everything that has gone wrong no matter how absurd the claim is. Once a verdict has been reached it is announced to the crowd at hand. As you can guess the defendant is found guilty. A noose is placed around the neck and he is hung from the gallows. Don't be frightened or alarmed it is only a puppet they hang from the gallows. Following the trial there is dancing and music as the town celebrates well into the evening.
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