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The carnival "Belli e Brutti di Suvero"


The growing interest in these masks made it that in 2019 a book was dedicated to the "Belli e Brutti" entitled "Carnival Masks in the extreme Eastern Ligure" written by Lorena Calabria;

"Carnival rituals have a universal diffusion, considering that within their scope different rituals have been inserted in the past both in terms of context and meaning. Therefore some traditions, often linked to agrarian life, and then to the seasons, have continued to the present day, although, at least as regards the subjects covered in this book - a work on the "Belli" and "Brutti" by Suvero and Zeri - they have lost, in the perception of the surrounding society, the meaning of a ritual aimed to avert the danger of famine, to celebrate the return of spring or the victory of men over the animal world."


The documentarian Fabio P.P. Milani, in 2008, filmed a suggestive documentary on the carnival, while the anthropologist M. Centini dedicated a chapter of his recent study "Devils, hermits and savages" (2009) to the event, It is not easy to know what the origin and meaning of this tradition are. First of all we could highlight similar events in Italy and in Europe: here then is Schignano, in the province of Como, with a carnival of the beautiful and ugly very similar to the one of Suvero and some places in Sardinia (eg Samugheo, in the province of Oristano, with the Mamutzone, an Brutti one).


Brutti are also found in the Greek island of Skyros (the Geros), in Viza, in Thrace (the Kalogeroi), in Istria (the Zvoncari) and in Slovenia. Some scholars link the origin of these masks to pagan cults of a Dionysian nature, others to Celtic feasts that marked the return of light, with increasingly elongated days.

Suvero is a town in the municipality of Rocchetta di Vara, in the province of La Spezia, in the Alta Val di Vara, near the Cinque Terre, and is known, among other things, for its very ancient and unique carnival with ancestral flavors, so much familiar to those who for a lifetime are used to living it as extraordinary for those who are suddenly spectators.


This carnival, organized on the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday, was an ancient and mysterious tradition, still today speak with the same costumes used at the time by the ancestors. There are two traditional masks: the "belli" and the "brutti".


The "Belli" wear brightly colored dresses in floral fantasy, adorned with lace, bows and bells and wear hats covered with the same fabric as the dress, adorned with long colorful ribbons, lace, beads and bells. The "Brutti" are dressed in goat or sheep fleeces and on the head they wear long and thick horns, while the face is dyed black or covered with masks or bautte with dark and grim features and they bring cow bells to life, which they shake while they shake they walk.

Thus dressed the Belli and Brutti masks visit the hamlets of the territory and other hamlets of the Alta Val di Vara on trucks and tractors from early morning, obtaining in exchange food in quantity and generous glasses of wine and grappa; later, in the afternoon, they parade through the streets of the town, stopping at each house: here, while the residents prepares a quick refreshment, the Belli make the women of the family dance, while the Brutti ones do not spare jokes and pranks on anyone. As night falls, everyone gets together for dinner with friends.

La folla del Carnevale di Suvero
suvero (2).jpg

Individual elements can thus be interpreted: the clatter of the bells and the monstrosity of the masks have the function of chasing away the evil forces from the houses in view of the imminent spring that will grow crops. In gratitude, eggs, sweets and wine are donated to the masks.


However, much of this carnival still escapes ethnographic study, for example it is not easy to understand why it survives only in such a small area. Whatever the secret significance of this ancient liturgy, the charm and fragile magic remain intact and genuine.

Where is Suvero? Find out on the map

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