Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Carnevale in Lodi

The north of Italy is about to experience a warm front that will apparently reach up to twenty degrees Celsius this weekend and today was the first day in a long time that the locals put away their heavily padded coats and opted for something lighter. It was mid-afternoon by the time that I emerged from my apartment and as I unzipped my winter jacket, I couldn’t help but feel that spring is just around the corner. Even though I had heard that Lodi’s Carnevale celebrations were kicking off today, people had warned me that the city does next to nothing to mark the occasion. Still, I ventured towards Piazza della Vittoria, curious to see what, if anything was happening. I should have guessed that the people who are known throughout Italy for hosting an annual competition that involves grown men pushing wooden horses around in circles wouldn’t leave me disappointed.

As I entered the square I was surprised to see hoards of small children and their families, all in costume and having a wonderful time. The children had just been let out of school for the day and clutched bags of confetti. They threw handfuls of it at one another, screaming joyously as they ran amongst the crowd. Princesses battled with lions and a boy dressed as a clown clutched a superbike balloon while picking his nose. Stalls had been erected amongst the mayhem, selling cotton candy and silly string and a large inflatable slide drew a line of eager youngsters. Several horse drawn carriages and chariots took excited passengers for a ride around the piazza’s perimeter free of charge. The proud animals remained calm amongst the confusion and allowed their adoring fans to caress them when they were not on the move.

There was a very Italian situation when several city buses attempted to cross the piazza only to be met head on by a fleet of horse-drawn carriages. The humorous stand-off lasted several minutes and created an animal pile-up which somehow ended up with a llama rear-ending a chariot! Thankfully no one was injured and after extensive police direction, the carriages, buses and of course, the llama, were all able to continue along their separate courses.

In addition to the horses and llama an exotic guest had been invited to the party. A large dromedary joined the festivities and mingled amongst curious bystanders who flocked to greet it. Various costumed youngsters worked up the nerve to touch the beast as it paraded around and even stuck its tongue out, much to the amusement of those in attendance. A group of teenaged boys sniggered amongst one another as a little girl recoiled when the dromedary came a little too close. Hearing their commotion, the single-humped creature quickly turned its attention on them, provoking several high-pitched shrieks and much laughter.

Although Lodi’s Carnevale celebrations only lasted a few hours and cannot even be compared to the festivities that I witnessed in Venice, they were still a lot of fun and somehow fitting for this quirky Italian city. There may not have been fancy buskers wearing elaborate costumes like you see in Piazza di San Marco, nor were there thousands of international visitors in attendance. Still, Lodi does have one fantastic thing that the world-famous Venice does not. Lodi has a dromedary!

1 comment: