Not everyone knows that in many places in Italy and Europe, Carnival celebrations actually begin on January 17th or the Patron Saint Day of Saint Anthony the Abbot. The small village of Tricarico, in the province of Matera, is one of these places where ancient traditions are still very much alive.
Carnival in Tricarico
Tricarico is a typical mountain village of Basilicata (also known as Lucania) and among the oldest and most beautiful in the whole region. Located between Potenza and Matera and bordering the Gallipoli Cognato Regional Park, this village of Arab-Norman origin meets all the requirements needed to enthrall its visitors at any time of the year.
Its Carnival is particularly fascinating in that it begins at dawn on January 17th, the day of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the protector of animals. Telltale signs of the close link between the villagers and animals are everywhere. The Carnival masks themselves are unique in that they represent the cows, bulls, and the herds that move from the mountains to the plains every winter during transhumance. To interpret them are Tricarico’s men who distinguish themselves with the brimmed headdresses with either colored ribbons (cows) or in black (bulls).
After the blessing from the priest, the herd stampedes through the streets of the town ringing their cowbells fervently and rambunctiously (classic Carnival behavior symbolizing rebellion against the powerful class). Then at a certain point, the herd dismantles and divides into smaller groups. The masked characters trample through the streets ringing doorbells and in return, are offered drinks and snacks by their paesani. Singing and dancing ensue.
Another characteristic of Tricarico’s Carnival that is somewhat atypical is that after January 17th, the parade is only repeated once more on the last Sunday of Carnival (February 23rd in 2020). Starting from 10.30 in the morning the whole day is a party. A concert at 20.30 in Piazza Garibaldi precedes the death of Carnival and the mourning of his wife Quaremma.
Getting to Tricarico
By car: From Potenza, state road SS 407 towards Basentana, exit at Tricarico.
By train: Napoli-Taranto line stopping at Grassano- Garaguso- Tricarico. TitoBus is the bus service in the area.
For more information, visit Tricarico’s Pro Loco website (Italian only).