A gigantic baby Donald Trump wearing only a tiger skin slung across his bare chest and beating his arms like a gorilla inched slowly through the crowd. Behind him two enormous nonplussed monkeys scratched their heads (or have I mixed them up). This was one of the floats at last year’s Cento Carnival, a tour de force of papier-mâché and hidden mechanisms. Each float brought a different theme – dream-like, political, swashbuckling or humorous. And all were masterpieces in the realm of float design.
Cento Carnival History
As Cento’s official Carnival website states, the event has been recorded as far back as the 1600s as evidenced by a fresco by Guercino, who was born in Cento, depicting the main square with revellers in masks. My art history training meant I immediately wanted to know more about this impressive source, but unfortunately I haven’t managed to find the location or, in fact, any other mention of said fresco (below).
Even if Cento can legitimately boast such ancient beginnings, it was only in the 1940s that it began in earnest, albeit on a local scale. It was in the 80s and 90s, however, that Cento really took off, thanks to the new patron Ivano Manservisi and it’s twinning with Rio de Janeiro Carnival rocketing it to international fame.
The floats, up to 15m high, parade down the main street of Cento (cordoned off and ticketed) and the best place for viewing is the central square. Here the floats do their ‘performance’ with music, confetti, movement and throwing free gifts (il gettito) into the crowd. There is also a stage in the square with various performances and one starring guest. Last year to all the teenagers’ delight, and most adults’ disinterest, the star was Rovazzi (if you don’t know who he is don’t waste your time searching).
If you go a little early you can get close up to the floats as they prepare to enter the square, and you can admire the incredible detail and artistry involved. Each Società carnevalesca (which are il Risveglio, Mazalora, Fantasti100, i Toponi and i Ragazzi del Guercino) produces a float based on a certain theme which is preceded by dancers or actors. Often the themes touch on current issues, generally with a satirical twist.
Here are photos of all the floats from last year’s carnival, some of which may be repeated again, some not, but all will give you an idea of what marvellous monstrosities you can expect from this year!
Pirates of Cento
A gruesome pirate whose eyes repeatedly crossed, waving purple tentacles and leering skeletons, it had already won over the crowd even before it started firing confetti from canons and launching inflatables for children to catch.
Note: If you go with children you will naturally want to catch one of these inflatables or balloons. Most people in the crowd are normal, nice people and will give things they catch to the children, but we had one lady next to us who collected 6 or 7 of these gifts apparently for herself. She was pretty violent too, so just watch out that your child doesn’t get hurt by other greedy people!
Mother Nature (and Ugly Babies)
Poetic and surreal, Day’s eyes opened and closed and her rays unfurled, and Night rocked her babies in her arms. I’m not quite sure where the burlesque dancer fits in, possibly she is Mother Nature…
The Mocking Milk Maid
Firstly, I’ve never seen a more beautiful cow in my life, look at those eyelashes! As the float entered the square the green shutters burst open in an explosion of confetti and from behind appeared the sunny milk maid.
In Italian the title of this float was “Doc Dop Igp… occhio, le bufale sono qui”. The acronyms ‘doc’, ‘dop’ and ‘igp’ are used on food and drink to confirm their production in Italy, and their quality. However for various economic and bureaucratic reasons these labels are disparaged by some. Thus around the float various Italian hams and cheeses were mocked with signs saying ‘Made in Australia’ or ‘Made in Croatia’.
Trump, King of the Jungle
Someone had to do it. Well done Cento Carnival!
Official website of Cento Carnival
Tickets: full price 15,00 euro
Free for children under 1.2m
You can buy tickets online on the website above, or on the day from 8.30. Queues were fairly long for tickets on the day so arrive early.
Dates for 2018:
28 January, 4-11-18 and 25 February, from 14.00 to 18.30