By Leslie Xavier. See original Italian Notebook article here
Each year during Carnevale, animated giants inhabit the streets of Putignano in Puglia. These allegorical paper-maché creations are approximately 4 stories high! Very much like floats in parades the world over, they gracefully glide down the streets. Hidden Lilliputians guide the animations of these modern Gullivers, barely missing lamp posts and balconies along the route.
Each float is created with a theme that carries a social or political satirical message. One of the favorites was the float addressing the oil spill in the U.S. A diver in a dive suit of stars and stripes paddles and swims amid a very “Finding Nemo” undersea world. At the base of the float a very conspicuous cork bobbles precariously in a “British Petroleum” pipeline.
The parade is highlighted by events such as Tarantella dancing, live music, and a host of people dressed for the occasion. The event is definitely family oriented with a children’s parade during the day and plenty of lively actors and street musicians.
Putignano claims to have the oldest and longest Carnevale, its origin dating to December 26th, 1394, with the transfer of St Stefan’s relics from Monopoli to Putignano. During this transfer of the relics, it is said that local farmers formed a procession with dancing, singing and reciting rhymes, hence the beginning of the Carnevale!
Nowadays the Carnevale in Putignano begins December 26th and ends on Martedi’ Grasso (Shrove Tuesday). The end of Carnevale is marked in a unique way as “extreme unction” is administered by fake priests using a toilet bowl brush and water from a miniature toilet, “priso”. Sprinkling the crowd with “holy water” they bring a close to Carnevale as the bells of the church tolls 365 times.
While other cities such as Venice are mobbed by visitors, amazingly this parade remains off the beaten paths of pit stops for Carnevale. There is a parade each Sunday with the big parade being on Martedi Grasso (March 8th this year), so there is still time to join in the fun!
You can get more information at Carnevale di Putignano.