Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Last night was the dinner/dance in San Venanzo. Because Lent starts next week, this week is Carnivale. Not just in New Orleans, not just in Rio, not just in Venice, but in most small towns throughout Italy, Carnivale is celebrated in some form. Several weeks ago we noticed that the stores were filled with costumes for kids, just like we see in the states before Halloween. We saw lots of princess costumes, and outfits for American Indians. Super Heroes are popular in Italy too, so we saw Spiderman and Batman. Basically, the same sort of assorted characters you would see in the states, except these costumes are a bit more elaborate, more on the order of “dress up” costumes, not the cheap Halloween crap you usually see.

As Mauro had told us, the theme of this dance was Grease. So, Art put on a white tee shirt, blue jeans, and penny loafers with white socks. His leather jacket completed the ensemble, except for the pack of cigarets he was going to roll up in his sleeve. We had invited Wendy and her friend to come with us, and Wendy was bringing an extra pack of cigarets for Art. I didn’t want to be cold, so I wore a long sleeved hot pink shirt underneath my white button down shirt. I rolled up my blue jeans, wore white socks and white tennis shoes, then turned up my collar and added my leather jacket. That was it…we were as close to “costume” as we were going to get!

We had been told that the dinner started at eight, but since this is Italy, and since the dinner was a buffet, we weren’t in any hurry. I guess we got there about 8:45 or so. There were quite a few people in the main hall. The stage (bandstand) was at one end and the food at the other. In between, there was a space for dancing, then two long rows of tables. Most of the people there had finished eating, and were just talking and watching the kids play.

Every kid there was in costume of some sort, even the babies. We had witches and fairy princesses. We had super heroes and ninjas. We had hunters, and Zorro and Minnie Mouse. We had hula girls and more guys in drag than would seem normal for a town our size! Robin Hood was there, and an American Indian. Sylvester the Cat. Sleeping Beauty. But…most of the adults seemed to be dressed in street clothes…hmmm.

The dinner itself was fabulous. One long table filled with lots and lots of things that I will never know the names of! More meats and sausages than a butcher shop...but then we later found out that the butcher and his wife were the ones who prepared the food! Pasta with cream sauce, pasta with tomato sauce. Porchetta…a whole roasted pig…one of our all time favorites! And breads with different toppings, and cheeses. And more breads. More cheeses. More meats! I tried to keep my plate small so that when I walked past everyone, they wouldn’t think I was an American pig! But after all, I wanted to try everything, and it was WAY past my (American) dinnertime!

There were more tables set up in the entry hall, and we decided to eat in there. All the tables had bottles of wine, bottles of water, and cups on them. The wine was available in red or white, and the water was naturale or with gas. Caffe was available for after dinner. Nice set up! And, best of all, our table was near the table with the extra wine, water AND the desserts! Italian Cream Cake is wonderful, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in Italy. Italians aren’t big on desserts, or sweets in general. A lot of the pastries/biscuits/cookies are dry, except of course for the ones that are make of the phyllo dough! The tiramisu is always wonderful, but I would REALLY rather have chocolate WITHOUT coffee!!! Oh well, the dessert we had was some sort of fried dough, not bad, dusted with sugar…it was sweet and it was fried, so for us it worked!

After another trip (or two) back to the food table, we heard the band start up. The kids were playing around, running and sliding on the confetti that had been tossed all around. The other three had after dinner coffee, and while we talked, we were all sort of wondering what would happen….so far it seemed pretty quiet. We hadn’t seen anyone we knew, not even Mauro. But, we did know that it was possible to buy a ticket for the dance only, and by Italian standards, the night was still very young.

And then it happened…Mauro and his friends arrived. All twenty three of them. All dressed in their best Grease attire…men with painted on sideburns, tee shirts, rolled up blue jeans. The women had scarves tied around their necks, with matching headbands. They had white blouses and full, bias cut skirts that matched their scarves. And of course matching tennis shoes with white socks. Some of the men where dressed as women, complete with wigs. Some of the women where dressed like men…the macho “biker” look. And they lined up in the large entry hall where we were sitting, two by two, each with an unlit cigaret in their hand. The band started to play something from “Grease”, I don’t even know what, and the group made a grand entrance. They “performed” to several numbers, while most of us watched in amazement. The party had definitely begun!!!

We later found out that Mauro and his wife take dance lessons once a week, in San Venanzo, and that this was the dance class. Apparently they’re the ones who decided on the “Grease” theme to begin with, and they had learned a LOT of line dances for the songs of this period! Watching them was a blast…they were having so much fun, especially the men who were dressed as women! It was obvious who the teachers of the class were…the cute young couple who looked like stand-ins for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John! While the group was dancing, the kids were joining in, running through the tunnel created by the up-reaching hands of the adults! The change in the atmosphere was amazing!

The band consisted of two people and I’m guessing a karaoke machine. The man was pretty hyper, and the girl just sang back up. They did a good job of keeping the energy level up, and we danced to songs in Italian as well as “I Will Survive”, “Saturday Night Fever”, and of course, “YMCA”! The dance group seemed to know tons of line dances, something I was never any good at, and it was so much fun to watch them.

Of course we did our share of dancing too…it’s been quite a while since Art and I have danced! When we weren’t dancing, I was taking pictures…a lot of them didn’t turn out because I was clicking faster than the flash could recharge! I did manage to get some good shots, and with the help of Photoshop, I made a CD-Rom, actually two; one for me and one for Mauro.

As the evening went on, we started seeing other people we knew…Elvio, our electrician was there, and we found out that the adorable little Zorro we had been watching all night was his son! And Fabio, our plumber was there, as well as the man who made our garden door. And we even saw a few familiar faces from around the neighborhood!

The party started to slow down as the kids ran out of gas. Two by two, we would see couples leaving with sleeping or very tired children in their arms. And about 1 am, we decided to leave too. I had thought the band was playing its last song several times. When they actually stopped, I don’t know. We walked back to the house in a light rain, had a digestivo (the olive liqueur we bought at Christmas time), and went to bed! We set the alarm so we didn’t sleep until noon! And we just kept saying to each other what a fun night it had been, and how glad we were that we had decided to go!

On Tuesday afternoon when Art started to tell Gioberto about the party, Gioberto said, yes, he had heard we were dancing! Guess there are no secrets in this town! Gioberto wasn’t there because he went out of town, and his brother doesn’t live in San Venanzo, so that’s why he wasn’t there. We took the CD-Rom to Mauro’s office and showed the pictures to him and the two guys who work for him. Mauro told us there’s a place in Marsciano where I can have digital prints made…I’m sure it’s much cheaper in the states, but I’ll check it out. Before we go back in April I’ll just put everything onto one CD and have them printed at WalMart…they keep lowering the price…I think it was 24 cents when we were there at Christmas.

On Sunday there was a parade in Marsciano, but we didn’t know about it until it was tool late. We only found out about it when Wendy called to say that she was lost. We thought that was a pretty strange phone call for two reasons: #1, Wendy has lived here for eleven years now, so for her to be lost is pretty unusual, and #2, why would ANYONE call US for directions?!!!! As it turned out, Wendy had to take some detours around Marsciano due to the streets being closed for the parade. She was on the smaller side streets, and amazingly, we had been in the area where she was, and knew a little bit about the area. Whether our directions actually helped her, I’m not sure, but she did eventually arrive in San Venanzo, and told us about the parade. She had come back to get more boxes and bubble wrap from us, since she will be moving soon. What a good deal for both of us! She said her knees were really sore from all the dancing the night before, but that she had really enjoyed the party too.