It is generally accepted that the carnival with its traditional masks, colors and loud noise was originally meant to drive away the forces of darkness and winter, and to pave the way for the arrival of spring.
Carnival over the centuries in Genoa
It may sound strange, but, in ancient times, the Genoese carnival was more rowdy and even more irreverent than the Venetian one. Carnival festivities are known as early as around the 13th century when, in a document, debt deferrals were authorized so that debtors could spend these holidays more cheerfully.
Again from the enactment of laws or edicts we learn that in 1442 it was forbidden to walk around during the carnival period hooded or veiled, as was the “custom of mimes,” because violence and rape were perpetrated, or that in 1548 it was forbidden to throw from windows “citron, ova full of flour et altre sporcitie, limoni et boghe,” punishable by a fine of as much as 200 gold ducats.
In the streets and squares of the city people danced to the rhythms of the “Rionda,” which was danced in a circle around a bonfire where the dancers raised their legs rhythmically, or to those of the “Moresca,” a dance in which the participants, dressed in clothes of Spanish or Oriental make, faced each other in skillful bows alternating with moments devoted to games of arms.
We learn, thanks to a law that forbade it, that “the stick dance” (of which, unfortunately, no description has been handed down, but the name hints at something decidedly spicy) was danced, which in fact the inquisitors attributed only to “immoral homini and bagasce” (we don’t think there is any need for translation).
In the late 1500s the first processions, the so-called “Carrossèzzi,” were born. These lavish processions took place on the Bisagno esplanade and from 1783 from Fontane Marose Square along modern-day Via Garibaldi, Via Cairoli and Via Balbi until they reached Piazza Acquaverde.
While the ladies threw flowers and the knights small eggs filled with fragrant fragrances, the street urchins, in excellent carnival spirit, targeted those carriages with rotten eggs.
From the late 1700s, carnival moved from the squares to the palaces, in the case of the nobility, or to more populous venues called “festoons” or “lanterns,” distinguished by the lamps hung on the walls. In particular, in the 1800s, the fashionable meeting place was the “Festoon of the Justinians.”
Carnival 2024 in Genoa will be celebrated with parades of floats and traditional masks through the city’s neighborhoods, while there will be juggling shows and masquerade dances in the historic center. The events will culminate on Mardi Gras day, Feb. 13. Instead, click on this link for directions to the most beautiful carnivals in Liguria.
The traditional masks of the Genoese carnival
Two traditional masks in particular are generally attributed to Liguria: Captain Spaventa of Vall’Inferna and Baciccia of Radiccia. Both are theatrically derived; the former veins created as part of the commedia dell’arte by actor Francesco Andreini between the 1500s and 1600s, while the latter comes from the puppet theater.
Captain Spaventa Valli of Inferna is the traditional mask of a dreamy, cultured and refined soldier, who has a way with words more than with the sword, boasting of adventures never accomplished. He has a very long mustache and a large nose, and is dressed in a yellow and orange colored striped dress, complemented by a wide-brimmed hat adorned with feathers.
Baciccia della Radiccia was born, in the late 19th century, from an idea of theater actor and puppeteer Raffaele Pallavicini, although he later owes much of his success to puppeteer Mario Magonio.
The traditional mask of Baciccia is created to represent the classic Genoese commoner, poor, cheerful but grumbling. Originally born Baciccia Casagrande it will be renamed della Radiccia by Magonio to jokingly give it a noble title (in Genoese radiccia stands for chicory, radicchio or their roots). Flanked in facing his adventures by his friend Barudda, a stuttering, simple-minded but good-hearted peasant boy, he always ends up being punished for being late in returning home to his wife Texinin.
Where to stay
Just under a kilometer from the city center and a hundred meters from Brignole train station, Urban Flora is the perfect place for you to fully enjoy the carnival in Genoa and admire its traditional masks.
With us you will experience a Scandinavian-modern look, where fresh and pleasant plants will make you enjoy as much relaxation as possible and for an unforgettable vacation. All rooms provide a private bathroom, smart TV and free Wi-Fi that will make you feel right at home. Book your room now or contact us to ask for more information