Carnival: definitely a thing here

A few weeks before Ash Wednesday, I noticed some confetti scattered around the playground at Villa Borghese.  Cool, I thought, some kid must of had a birthday party.  Then I started noticing it at other playgrounds.  And on the streets.  And basically everywhere.  You can see where this is going . . .

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Turns out, this was all Carnival, or Carnevale here, related.  It felt like a secret society at times.  You don’t know when or where, but at some appointed time Italians will assemble and throw confetti (coriandoli) and silly string at each other.

We witnessed this on a trip to Tivoli.  The whole town was streaming toward the main piazza, as if drawn by a magnetic force.  Unfortunately, we were two Cheerios from full kid meltdown and needed food STAT so we couldn’t stick around to observe.  But when we emerged from lunch, it looked like a confetti bomb had gone off.  Save a few stragglers and the balloon vendor, the square was deserted.  (Oh, right, balloons and inflatable objects also seem integral to the secret fun.)

In addition to confetti, silly string, and balloons, Carnevale means dress up.  The toy store around the corner trotted out all the costumes you didn’t see at Halloween.  I dropped Henry at school the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and missed the dress up day memo.  In my defense, it was early days on school.  Also, NO ONE told me.  Everyone just seems to know.  Secret society.  Luckily, Henry was pretty psyched about the face painting and did not comment on his lack of costume.

They called this "Spider Clown"

They called this “Spider Clown”

Things intensified as we approached Fat Tuesday.  More dress up.  More confetti.  More streamers.

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I don’t know why this surprised me.  I just didn’t realize it was a thing.  Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  That’s a thing.  Carnival in Rio.  That’s a thing.  Carnevale in Venice.  That’s a thing.  But Rome (and apparently many other places in Europe)?  I didn’t know.

Carnival is DEFINITELY a thing in Tuscany.  Coincidentally, our trip to Montepulciano with my mom occurred the weekend before Lent.  A friend helpfully sent me a list of major celebrations in Tuscany, noting that we would be close to Foiano della Chiana, home of the oldest carnival celebration in Italy.  We played it by ear.  I wanted a more relaxing trip instead of stuffing everything in.  The hills in Tuscany make distances deceptive.

In the end, we did go.


Adults paid an admission into town (I think 8 euro).  We got there just in time for the confetti cannon.  I KNOW.  Hang on.  Let me set the scene.

It was crowded, but not scary crowded.  I wasn’t worried about being crushed or separated from my group.  Vendors sold bags of confetti and horns.  There were also food vendors galore selling yummy fried things.  You could even get hot wine, but it was not as good as at the German markets.

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The crowd was, shall we say, festive.  I think at least a quarter of the participants were in costume.  Most frequently costumed were kids and groups of bros, although there were some ladies as well.  These were not elaborate historical costumes like you’d see in Venice.  It really just looked like Halloween was happening in February.

It was loud.  Between people shouting and music blaring, you weren’t having an intimate conversation with anyone.

OK, back to the confetti cannon.  In the super old and fancy town hall in the main piazza, revelers lined the balcony, kind of like balconies on Bourbon Street.  We stood to the side of the scrum below.  After a countdown, the confetti guns fired.  These were sort of a letdown.  Just long tubes with some confetti shooting out.  But that was not all.  The group up top rained down confetti as the cannons fired.  Everyone down below threw confetti as well.

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After that stopped, they rained down inflatables.  Nemos.  Spidermans.  Peppa Pigs.  James lost his glasses trying to grab one, but luckily they were recovered before someone could stomp them.

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THEN, they tipped ginormous balls down into the crowd for some serious volleyball action.  It was a little surreal.

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After the crowd dispersed, we went around the corner.  And saw THIS:

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Turns out it was one of three incredibly elaborate floats we saw.  The floats seemed to be part of a very slow moving parade.  Slow moving because the route was in no way cleared and they were sort of just moving through the crowd.  They all had multiple moving pieces, like a bull shaking its head and dolphins leaping.  It was a sight to behold.

No words

No words

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They also had music THUMPING out of the speakers.  Mac was tolerant, but unflappable Henry was flapped.  We backed off and left a little bit later, picking up delicious porchetta sandwiches for the drive home.

When we got home, we found confetti everywhere.  In our shoes.  In our hair.  Somehow in the kids’ diapers.  So, yeah, Carnival.  Definitely a thing here.

Happy Halloween, ya’ll

Ah, Halloween.  The most wonderful Facebook time of the year.  Unlike the common complaint, I LOVE seeing pictures of other people’s kids on FB.  This is pretty much the reason I have not yet deleted my account.  I am super psyched to see pics of all the kids in their adorable costumes.  Here is my contribution.


As you can see, we have two football players.  Or a football player and a football.  (Shout out to Aunt Winky for the awesome knitted hat!)  I obsessed for a hot minute on costuming.  On the one hand, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  On the other hand, kids costumes are adorable and I figure I have limited years when I can dress them however I want.  I also really wanted a matching costume option.  Henry has been really into Tigger so I contemplated a Tigger and Winnie the Pooh getup before deciding that was way too much money to spend to basically dress Henry as a Clemson Tiger.  Sorry, Family.  We were able to achieve the look above with only the purchase of the helmet which gets a lot of play around here since it doubles as Henry’s moto helmet.  (Clearly not for safety.  He just wants to wear a helmet while riding.)

Halloween isn’t a big deal over here.  I’ve seen a few decorations in stores.  James and I went to dinner last night and saw a restaurant putting up a witches and things in the window.  I thought, if you are bothering to decorate at all, why not do it before the 30th, but whatever floats your boat.

James’s work had a trick-or-treating event for kids.  People decorated cars and you went “trunk or treating.”  It was pretty sweet.  Henry got surprisingly into the tchotchkes from the carnival games.  We were informed that Henry was in the “top 3” for the costume contest.  Several of the judges were our friends so I’m pretty sure they just didn’t want to seem biased.  We bailed shortly into the trick-or-treating because it got intense fast, but a very fun night.

Henry and I decorated giant sugar cookies from a kit (thanks Nana!).  Well, I mostly did the decorating.  Henry did the eating.  (There was much debate with my girlfriends whether the cookies were meant to be eaten or whether they are more like gingerbread houses.  The packaging didn’t say to eat them, but it also didn’t say not to do it.  And it lists ingredient so probably eaten?  I can report that the cookies themselves taste pretty gross.  Henry loves them.)  I’m generally more into the process and really don’t care how things look, but I was frustrated that Henry had no interest in decorating the cookies before consumption.  Come on, kid, can’t you just smear a little icing on?  But then he’d have the icing bag up to his mouth funneling frosting.  Oh, well.


I carved a pumpkin today.  (Note that I did not say we carved a pumpkin.  More on that in a sec.)  Even though I am not crafty or artistic, I am strangely into seasonal craft activities.  I love to dye elaborate but deflicted looking eggs.  Bring on the fireworks!  And I really really love to carve pumpkins.

My pumpkin “skillz” have really come a long way.  As a kid, I refused to touch the pumpkin guts.  I spent WAY too long trying to scoop out the insides with a spoon and not let any of the detritus touch my hand.  Now I can clean a pumpkin in two minutes flat.  In years past, I am frequently the official pumpkin scooper because James claims his hand is too big to fit inside.

And, you guys, remember the days before pumpkin carving kits?  Here, kid, go nuts with this paring knife.  But, oh, the kits rocked my world.  First, I really like using that dotty stabber thing to make designs.  I guess a pencil would work as well, but I think the planning is helpful.  Also, I like to freehand these days, but the prepackaged designs provided great inspiration.  Pumpkins can have eyebrows??  Before, I was definitely in an eye, eye, nose, mouth rut and I didn’t even know it was a rut.  Until I saw the designs, I had no idea how far pumpkin carving could go.  Remember this was in the PP era (pre-Pinterest).

So today I thought Henry could help carve the pumpkin.  He decided to take a morning nap.  He didn’t actually nap.  See, the only time he can have his pacifier is in the crib.  He knows this so sometimes he likes to just go hang out in there.  Instead of feeling hurt that my toddler would rather sit alone in a darkened room with his pacifier than hang out with me or wait for him to emerge, I decided to just enjoy carving my pumpkin.  So not the enjoyment of seeing a child experience something new, but the enjoyment of doing what you want and actually finishing something.

I decided to use Mac for pumpkin inspiration.  Not in a sit-here-kid-and-let-me-pumpkinize you kind of way, but just going for the essence of Mac.  That kid is just so darn happy.

How’d I do?

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I’m pretty pleased with the results.  (If this is a “good” outcome, you can appreciate how many of my other crafting attempts look.)

The kids will be trick-or-treating in the building tonight, and then I am ready to stick-a-fork-in-it done this Halloween.

What are your Halloween plans?  Don’t forget to post those adorable kiddo pics!