Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sicilian Cart Parade

Our Italian-American friend Rose took us to the nearby town of Trecastagni to see a whole parade of painted Sicilian carts this weekend. I had seen single carts occasionally and randomly before, but this was a real parade with about 15-20 of the beautifully painted carts complete with decorated horses and musicians playing old Sicilian folk music with flutes, accordians, and tambourines all the way.

We were caught a little unaware as we stopped in a bar for a cappucino and suddenly saw a cart pass by the window. "Who ever heard of something starting on time in Sicily?" said Rose. So we rushed outside and enjoyed the long and lively parade a couple of times as they circled the town square more than once, went all through town to the main church (where the real action of the festival was happening), and then back through the square again. So basically we saw them three times throughout the morning.

The beauty of the carts is in their painting--they are covered with coloful folk designs on every square inch with motifs that seem to be primarily medieval (Crusader knights fighting the Arabs) or religious with a few mermaids thrown in for fun. Not content just with painting, they are also carved with gargoyles, mermaids, angels, flowers, and all other kinds of designs. Underneath the carts, it was pointed out to me, hang such things as the cartman might need--an umbrella, a jug of wine, a bucket, etc.

Nowadays, the carts are only used for show, but the government considers them an important part of the Sicilian culture and subsidized their upkeep. There are very few people who still do this kind of painting, and even fewer who build them. No longer used for produce and farming, they have been replaced by the three-wheeled trucks, some of which are painted in the back in the same style.

All of this was part of a huge religious festival in Trecastagni honoring the town's three brother martyr-saints, the most famous of whom is Saint Alfio. More on that in another entry.

Compared to the rest of Italy, there isn't much (framed and hung) art in Sicilian museums, but, to me, it is more than made up for in the stunning mosaics, ceramics, and these painted carts. Art of the people, by the people, and for the people. MORE PHOTOS ON FLICKR


At May 11, 2008 12:59 PM, Blogger Leanne said...

How lovely to have seen the carts! Like you I had only seen random ones (and only ever in Siracusa) so I can imagine how pretty it was to see them all in a parade!

At May 11, 2008 4:00 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

Hi Maryellen...

Nice pics..
Sis you have tons of ash residue down your way last night?? We are still sweeping up here.


At May 11, 2008 5:55 PM, Blogger Kendra said...

It was a lovely cultural display. I have to agree with you; what is lacking in the line of museums is more than made up for in history and 'living' art.

In response to Sharon's comment...I had a dusting of ash residue after the rain this morning in Riposto.

At May 16, 2008 8:50 AM, Blogger Jilli said...

They were beautiful!


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