By Melissa Cannavo-Marino
Mamma, nonna e nonno are molto felici (very happy). Anch’io sono molto felice (I’m very happy, too). Finalmente (finally) fa bel tempo (the weather is nice) and everyone in Frosinone is getting ready for Carnevale (carnival time or in America mardi gras time). So, domani (tomorrow) is the beginning of the Carnevale celebration in town and noi stiamo facendo (we are making) plans to join in the fun. Non posso aspettare (I can’t wait). Domani we are all going to the Carnevale celebration.
When we get up, nonno will already be at the range frying zeppole (deep-fried dough balls rolled in sugar) in lots of oil. I wait patiently for un pezzo (a piece) of zeppole while nonno explains that very soon it will be la Quaresima (Lent) and the eating tradition of la Quaresima is to eat lean and not lots of greasy food and sweets. During the Quaresima season many Roman Catholics even give up their favorite food or activity, like going to the movies. So for the next few days until Ash Wednesday, nonno says noi festeggiamo (we feast.)
After breakfast, we will get ready to go. Le previsioni del tempo sono favorevoli (the weather forecast is favorable. We won’t need i guanti (gloves) and heavy cappotti (coats). Nonna suggests that we walk to the carnival, because it will be crowded and there will be no place to park. Mamma puts on my guinzaglio (leash) and off we go.
I’m confused! As we get closer to the center of town, the children are all dressed in costumi, like Halloween! Kids are spraying silly string everywhere! The air is filled with coriandoli (confetti)! Big floats with giant characters parade along Via Aldo Moro! People are playing scherzi (practical jokes) on each other! Worse yet, I don’t see any rides!
Mamma then explains that Carnevale in Italy is not a fund-raiser traveling amusement park, like the ones that are molto popolari (very popular) in America. People just do lots of fun crazy things, so they can prepare to respect the holiness of la Quaresima. Mamma says that the Carnevale they are celebrating will end in two days on martedì grasso (Fat Tuesday). Wednesday is mercoledì delle ceneri (Ash Wednesday) when la Quaresima begins. Nonno suggests that I give up my palla (ball) for la Quaresima. Mamma tells him not to be ridicolo (ridiculous). I’m glad she did. I don’t know why, but nonno doesn’t like my toy palla.
At Carnevale time pastry shops make all kinds of goodies before la Quaresima incomicia, (lent begins). Mamma tells me that in each different part of Italy there are different kinds of pastries that are made especially for Carnevale, except Carnival fritters (angel wings), a 100 percent Italian specialty found quasi dappertutto in Italia (almost all over Italy).
In Genoa and Turin they call them bugie (“lies”). In Florence they are the cenci (rags), in Tuscany strufoli, in Basilicata, Milan, in Sicily, Puglia and Parma they are chiacchiere (“chats”), they are frappe in Rome, Viterbo, Perugia and Ancona, while in Venice, Verona andPadua are galàni or sosole. They are intrigoni in Reggio Emilia and lattughe (lettuces) in Mantova, maraviglias in Sardinia and sfrappe in Marche, in Romagna sfrappole. Their nicknames are endless but they are the same thing: Carnival fritters (angel wings). No matter what you call them, sono
deliziosissimi (they are very delicious)!
No one is sure, but some Italians say that they are descendents of frictilia, the Latin word for fritters made in ancient Rome to celebrate Carnival, produced in quantities as they had to last all throughout Lent.
Devo andare (I have to go) to get rest for tomorrow’s fun day.