For children in Verona the Christmas celebrations traditionally begin with the Feast of Santa Lucia. (Saint Lucy). On the night between the 12th and the 13th December, before going to bed every child will place a bowl of water and a carrot for the donkey together with a little letter containing the list of all the toys and things they desire. If they have been good, then Santa Lucia will bring them their presents, otherwise they will just get a piece of black coal. Behind this tradition, which dates back to the Middle Ages there are a number of events which culminate with the traditional Santa Lucia Market, held in Piazza Brà against the evocative background characterised by the white steel shooting star whose comet tail is seen coming out from the Arena. This image has now become the symbol of Christmas in Verona. For a few days before and after the Feast of Santa Lucia you can stroll amongst the market stalls and take in the spontaneous displays organised by the vendors, trying a thousand tasty treats from all over Italy, or buy small toys and unusual gadgets.
Another part of the fun of “Waiting for Santa Lucia” in Piazza Brà is taking part in “The Night of The Little Bells” (La Notte dei Campanellini), which lasts for four evenings and is centred around the historical antique merry-go-round where you can hear fairy stories, play games and receive presents. For further information: La Corte dei Bambini via Villa 12, Tel. 045.8344643 www.cortedeibambini.it
All these different events form part of the Christmas festivities, just as “Singing under a Star (Cantando sotto una stella), and also the New Year’s Day Concert; The arrival of the Three Wise Men, the Epiphany Bonfire on which the Epiphany old hag is burnt in Piazza Brà, and many others. To find out more visit the site:serviziinternet.comune.verona.it oor call the City Council Office for Relations with the Public (L’Ufficio Relazioni con il Pubblico del Comune) URP. Tel.045.8077500 (Monday – Friday 9.00 – 1.00; Tuesday and Thursday also 3.00 – 5.00)
You might also be interested in the exhibition called, VeroNatale or Verona Christmas, This features an unusual collection of nativity scenes from all over the world, all exhibited inside the underground passageways of the Roman Arena. For further information call the numbers: 045.592544/5917726, or visit the site www.presepiarenaverona.it Or else write and e-mail to email@example.com
Every year in Verona the Carneval spirit gains momentum right up until the eve of Ash Wednesday, the last day before Lent. Here, the entertainment is better known as the Bacanal del gnoco, the origins of which go back to pre-Christian times, and have been linked with the Palio race mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy. The extravagant Divina Commedia. celebrations are more than 500 years old, and people say that the wind blowing down from the nearby mountain Monte Baldo is what causes the Veronese population to be “a little crazy”. Elections are held to decide who will play the role of the traditional masked characters, each one belonging to one or another of the city boroughs or surrounding towns and villages. The most popular of all is the Papà del Gnoco (The Father of Potato Dumplings), and he is followed by the Duca della Pignata (Duke of the Cooking Pot), the Dio de l’Oro (the God of Gold) Re Teodorico della Cadrega (King Theodore of the CadregaThrone), Simeon de l’Isolo (Simon of the Island), il Conte Caramela (Count of Sweets and Candy) and many others as well. The days running up to the last Friday before Lent are filled with parties and meetings to prepare for the famous parade on venerdì gnocolar when around 4000 participants all dressed in masked costumes walk through the streets of Verona together with their allegorical hand made floats, brass bands and drum majorettes. In the past this was traditionally a time when satirical poets could denounce other people’s vices and wrongdoings, adulterers and the fraudulent. But nowadays it is a cheerful and festive sight, during which you can play…(or have played upon you!) all kinds of tricks and practical jokes!
The Comitato Bacanal del Gnoco (Bacanal Potato Dumpling Committee) is in piazza Bacanal 1, Tel. 045.592829. www.ducatosantostefano.it
The tragedy of Juliet and her beloved Romeo manage to epitomize the ideal of True Love so strongly that nowadays hundreds of letters arrive from all over the world, sent to Shakespeare’s heroine. Ever since 1911 there has always been someone willing to reply to these letters. For the past few a properly organised association called the
Club di Giulietta (Juliet’s Club)as taken over the job of answering every single one. They have organised a competition for the best love letter (award ceremony on 14th February), and for the best romantic novel, for which the prize is awarded on the birthday of Juliet herself (16th September). The Club is
in via Galilei 3, Tel.045.533115 www.todovideo.it/julietclub/index.htm
THE HORSE FAIR
Ever since the year 807 a.d there has been an ancient agricultural fair in the sacristy of the church of San Zeno, but the first modern trade fair was inaugurated in Verona in the year 1898. This was the Horse Fair (Fiera Cavalli) connected both with the market for work horses and for race horses. It used to be held in the city centre, and only in 1948 was it transferred to the southern outskirts of the city, to the area commonly called ZAI (Zona Agricola Industriale) where it is still held to this day. The most important yearly trade fairs are Vinitaly (Wine Fair), and Sol (Olives and Olive pressing) which are held in April. The Marble Fair (Fiera del Marmo) and the international award Architettura di Pietra (Stone Architecture) are held in September, while Abitare il Tempo (Living in Time) is in October. Vivi la casa in Fiera (Houses and Furnishing) is held in December,. The Agricultural Fair (Fiera del Agricoltura) is in February. Samoter (A Marble Fair) is in March, but the ones that you will probably find most interesting are Job & Orienta (Jobs and Careers Fair) and the mythical Fiera Cavalli (Horse Fair). To find out more, write to the authorities of the Verona Trade Fair Corporation at: Ente Autonomo per le Fiere di Verona Veronafiere viale del Lavoro 8, Tel. 045.8298111 fax 045.829288 www.veronafiere.it e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org