La vera storia di Gianduja e Giacometta- disegno- maschere carnevale- Carnevale di Torino

The Origins of the Two Most Famous Masks of the Piedmontese Carnival

Are you participating in the Carnival in Piedmont and wondering about the identities of Gianduja and Giacometta? Uncover the authentic story of Gianduja and Giacometta and their significance!

The Carnival, a deeply cherished celebration in Italy for centuries, holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Piedmont. Every town, village, and hamlet hosts festivities with allegorical floats, costumes, and traditional sweets like Bugie. Another constant in the Piedmontese Carnival is the presence of two typical masks dressed in late 18th-century attire: Gianduja and Giacometta. These joyful figures, usually leading the parades, have a unique history and a specific meaning tied to their region. If you’re curious about the true story of Gianduja and Giacometta, keep reading!

The True Story of Gianduja and Giacometta: The Meaning Behind the Masks

Like other regional masks, Gianduja and Giacometta emerged to best represent the spirit of the Piedmontese of their time. Through their behavior, clothing, and characteristics, much can be inferred about the Piedmontese lifestyle three hundred years ago.

Gianduja embodies the amiable and jovial spirit of the “piemunteis.” Generous, sensible, hospitable, and smiling, he enjoys wine, good food, and company, but has a significant flaw – he is terribly absent-minded. In a tale, he once searched for hours for the donkey he was supposedly riding!

His costume is a compilation of symbols reflecting the late 18th-century Piedmontese spirit. From the doja, the wine jug he always carries and from which his name (Gioann dla Doja) derives, to the brown fustian pants, red stockings, and yellow waistcoat – all are typical attire of the average Piedmontese. The tricorn hat with the tricolored cockade represents the unifying spirit prevalent in much of the Savoyard public opinion.

The true story of Gianduja and Giacometta - carnival masks - extras - Turin Carnival
The Gianduja and Giacometta of the Turin Carnival

By his side is the remarkable figure of Giacometta, representing the courage, practicality, and wisdom typical of Piedmontese women. With her strong character and keen intelligence, she helps Gianduja solve the trickiest problems without ever losing her kindness. Her costume draws inspiration from traditional Piedmontese folklore with a long, wide skirt, a shirt with a shawl, and a high headpiece.

The Birth of the Gianduja Mask: A Turbulent but Successful Tale

The true story of Gianduja originates in Turin, a brilliant idea by puppeteers Giovanni Battista Sales and Gioacchino Bellone. Their collaboration faced initial challenges due to the abundance of puppet shows in the Savoyard city, resulting in fierce competition. Undeterred, the two puppeteers decided to tour cities, aiming to build a reputation and earn more.

After a few months, they arrived in Genoa and began staging a show featuring a character named Gironi. The audience laughed at Gironi’s misadventures, especially when political power was mocked. The doge, named Gerolamo Durazzo, became the target of satire through the puppet Gironi. Days later, not only did spectators attend but also the police. The puppeteers were arrested, accused of insulting the doge, and their puppets were burned. Additionally, they were promptly expelled from the city.

Returning to Turin proved equally traumatic. They presented another show featuring Gironi-Gerolamo, coincidentally the name of Napoleon’s brother. The show was filled with remarks against the French rule, displeasing the authorities, who sentenced them to death. Guilty of plotting against the state, Sales and Belloni were imprisoned in the palace towers, cleverly escaping later. They reached Asti, welcomed by the De Rolandis family known for their unification ideas, hosting them in a farmhouse in the Callianetto woods of Monferrato. Today, this farmhouse is renowned as Ciabot d’Gianduja.

The true story of Gianduja and Giacometta - Ciabot di Gianduja - Callianetto - Asti
The farmhouse where Giovan Battista Sales and Gioacchino Belloni stayed, known as Ciabot d’Gianduja

From Gironi-Gerolamo to Gianduja

In this lively environment, they wrote a new script, changing the risky name from Giròni to Giandoja and altering the character’s traits. Gianduja more accurately mirrored the cheerful, duty-bound, and trustworthy nature of Piedmontese people. The character no longer delivered free-spirited lines but clear political criticism, supporting the idea of Italian unity.

Their return to Turin was a triumph. The public immediately fell in love with the character, recognizing the true spirit of the Piedmontese people. In the following years, Gianduja’s mask was adopted by numerous theater companies and became the protagonist of many satirical cartoons in various newspapers. With his satirical remarks, Gianduja significantly influenced the Piedmontese public opinion, often contrasting with political figures like Cavour, Mazzini, and d’Azeglio.

Familia Turineisa - poster - carnival 1926 - gianduja
Historic poster of a Turin theater company

After the Unification of Italy, his role inevitably changed. Paired with the mask of Giacometta, he became the emblem of the revived Turin Carnival. His image, diminished, then became associated with wine and various sweets, making Turin one of the Italian capitals.

Sweets Named after Gianduja

With his new role as a Carnival symbol, it was inevitable for Gianduja to inspire the names of some sweets. The most famous is undoubtedly Gianduja chocolate, made from cocoa, Langhe hazelnuts, and sugar. During Carnival, it is often given in a small format called Giandujotti, resembling the mask’s hat.

Yet, the mask lends its face and name to another sweet given during Carnival: Caramelle Gianduja (Gianduja Candies). These peculiar candies are made of sugar processed in copper containers with fruit essences. Originally, these candies were large, as it was customary to break and share them with friends during festive days. Over the years, their size reduced, resembling more of a lollipop. One thing remained the same – their hexagonal, colorful wrapping adorned with the image of the good Gianduja.

Gianduja sweets - Piedmontese Carnival - Turin Carnival
Gianduja candies

Now that you know the true story of Gianduja and Giacometta, all that’s left is to celebrate Carnival with them.

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Article Name
The true story of Gianduja e Giacometta
Uncover the captivating story of Gianduja and Giacometta, the iconic Piedmontese Carnival characters, as you immerse yourself in the festivities!
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice