The Carnival of Foiano della Chiana, with its 480th edition, is one of the oldest Carnival of Italy. This is the essential premise, its historical significance, its deep-seated feeling inside people who live in this town and from this, its importance.
We need to start from the people to understand, at least a little bit, this Carnival, because most of people, reading the word “Carnival”, think about Viareggio with its big papier-mâché floats to look at while they parade along the boardwalk, Venice with its wonderful masks that walk around the city and the channels, Rio de Janeiro with its incomparable schools of samba, or maybe they can imagine a festival of a little town with some activities for children’s fun.
Foiano it’s nothing of the sort. Reset.
Here the Carnival it’s a personal thing, it’s a part of the body of each inhabitant and, definitely, an eternal gift for the minds of who had the good fortune to live it at least for once.
4 “Cantieri”, every year, compete for the winner cup, the glory, nothing else. Colours and symbols divide the town into 4 factions and the belonging to one or another “cantiere” (this is the name of the factions) is not due to the residence area in the town, but it’s a personal choice, free, strong and everlasting. From a young age, here, people start to go to the “cantiere” working on a float or taking part in the masquerade or cheering on, but a role is up to everyone.
For 11 months a year people work inside the buildings, also called “cantieri”, to think, design, and build a gigantic papier-mâché float that then will barely pass through the alleyways of the town. The projects are original, no part of the old float can be used for the new one, it is only possible to use papier-mâché and some pieces of cloth for the motion parts and the chosen subject remains absolutely secret and jealously guarded among the “cantieristi” (in this way are called who work on the floats) until three days before the beginning of the parades.
They begin with the drawing, then the mechanical part, the sculptures in clay, followed by those in plaster to then let out the papier-mâché figure. A white surface treatment, then colour and polish. A lot of care, sacrifice, sweat and tears, but also so much passion and dedication. A lot! Because, another fundamental difference compared to other known “Carnivals”, all those who participate in the activities do that voluntarily, without receiving any compensation other than the happiness of the victory in the square on the last Sunday. Only one in four wins, the others cry, they are desperate, but then they come back to their “Cantiere” to face the new challenge.
When floats are presented to the spectators, when they emerge with their majesty from the narrow streets of the historic centre, anticipated by their masquerades, anyone understands what the Carnival of Foiano is, they can finally feel what the inhabitants of Foiano feel, even for just one moment, but that moment will remain sculpted inside the observer and the surprise that opens their eyes will never be forgotten.
The whole historic centre celebrates, is coloured and full of activities for five long Sundays, but what makes this Carnival special and unique it’s its town and its inhabitants.