In Italy’s Aosta Valley, bordering Switzerland and France, very special Carnival festivities take place every year. The area of the Great Saint Bernard Valley (Valle di Gran San Bernardo) and the Valpelline are known as the Coumba Freida which literally means ‘cold valley’. Let’s find out more about their Carnival traditions so deeply rooted in local history.
Unique Carnival Traditions
This isolated area, like much of Italy and Europe, had already been celebrating Carnival since the 15th century; however, the events that took place in May of 1800, would permanently change the course of its history. Napoleon and his troops marched through and brutally sacked this area during the Napoleonic Wars and his campaign in Italy. These events give Aosta’s Carnival a much different aspect as compared to those of southern Italy.
Each of the villages in this area has its own celebration but there are common threads among them reflecting both their distant past and more recent past. Costumes reflect the French soldiers and the masks (known as landzette) are allegorical representations of them as well. Everything is painstakingly handmade and includes other folkloristic features as well such as mirrors to ward off evil spirits. Red is a popular color representing strength and many of the costumes have mule tails or horse tails to ward off cold winds.
What to Expect
The procession includes locals dressed in these amazing costumes parading through the streets with lots of singing, dancing, and food and wine. They even enter into people’s homes where they are offered food and wine.
Cities and 2020 Dates
- Gignod: 15, 22, 25 February
- Etroubles: 20, 21 February
- Roisan: 22, 23 February
- Saint-Oyen: 22 February
- Allein: 23, 25 February
- Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses: 23, 25 February
This is not a comprehensive list of all the cities. More information is available on Aosta Valley’s official tourism website.