That the bull wasn’t real didn’t lessen the excitement a whit. Offida’s annual version of “running of the bulls” is called Il Bove Finto, the fake bull. It’s constructed of wood and carried on the shoulders of designated men who bounce it about and make it come alive. The red stains mimicked blood, making them look like they’d been gored, but were instead from spilled wine which, from the looks of it, they started consuming with breakfast. So much for sleepy hamlet. Once the bull is captured it is symbolically killed and the horns lifted to touch a column on the city hall, just like in days gone by when a real bull was chased and slaughtered. The meat was distributed to the poor so they would have a rich meal of carne before lent began.
Okay, so I didn’t technically do any of the running, but my heart was pounding as if I had, just from the sheer adrenaline of thousands of drunken,merry people stampeding after a fake animal. Next year I need to get me a whistle and find myself a nice perch from which to watch the full run (and get better photos; these were taken by Bryan as he simultaneously tried to keep out of harm’s way and reach his arm up to snap pictures while being jostled from all sides).
But our Carnevale festivities didn’t end there. You remember Giorgio Tomassetti, who was recently a guest blogger? His family invited us to a cenone and party in a teensy hill town north of here. I adore Giorgio's mom, Cinzia; she is bubbly, sweet and eminently likeable. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone not liking her. So when an activity is proposed in her company I always say yes. We all assembled at Cinzia’s parents’ home. About half had opted to go in maschera. Clerical garb was popular this year; we had among our party a nun, a Franciscan monk, and the Pope himself. We departed as a caravan in three cars winding our way up the very curvy road – which Giorgio informed me is one of the most dangerous in the province – to a bright restaurant banquet room full of Italians chattering noisily (which is always such a welcoming sound to us) and tables prepared for a feast. I noted a lot more nuns, most of whom were men beneath the habits. Cenone, indeed. Large meal which had us groaning. Between courses the music would start up for a little dancing while the next round of plates were being prepared (and to expend some calories for the next round, too).
“Pope” Giovanni, Giorgio’s uncle, loves to dance. Once the music started he was lost to us all, unless he came to request a partner. The guy knows how to cut a rug, I tell you. He is very charming, so when he came to ask me to dance with him, he first requested my hand from Bryan very formally, then escorted me to the dance floor. He led marvelously and even twirled me a couple of times…who knew the Pope was such a good dancer?
We had a ball at the…uh, ball. The three-hour meal was fantastic and the company even better. We love being included in parties like this where we’re the only Americans; it’s always a convenient conversational topic when I start talking to people and they notice my accent.
Despite a caffé at midnight when dinner ended, we found ourselves sleepy from the huge meal; we were the first of our group to depart at about 1:30 a.m. From the photos posted on Giorgio’s blog, though, we missed the real fun…the Pope took to dancing on the tables!
I’m still a bit tired; Carnevale week was pretty full. Running with bulls and dancing with popes kinda takes it out of you.
2008 Valerie Schneider