The Peppi Nappa Sciacca Carnival

  1. 1 Introduction
  2. 2 History of the Carnival of Sciacca
  3. 3 The King of Carnival: Peppi ‘Nnappa
  4. 4 The Carnival of Sciacca
  5. 5 Sciacca Carnival Program 2024

1 Introduction.

A thousand colors brighten Sciacca during its carnival, which is one of the most beautiful in Sicily. Allegorical floats and groups of revelers enliven on this occasion the streets of Sciacca and the large Piazza Scandaliato, with its splendid view of the Promontory. Stalls, music, sweets and carnival decorations make the town the capital of fun.

Peppe Nappa is the symbolic mask of the carnival. This character is represented every year on a float, at the back of which sausages are roasted and distributed along with wine. On the Mardi Gras, the last and most exciting day of the Carnival, Peppi Nappa is detached from the cart and burnt in the middle of Piazza Scandaliato. All the participants dance in a big circle on the notes of the anthem and throw thousands of carnival hammers at the stake of Peppe Nappa.

2 History of the Carnival of Sciacca

The Sciacca Carnival is mentioned by Giuseppe Pitrè, a Sicilian ethnologist in his Library of Sicilian Folk Traditions, published in the late 19th century. The origins, however, can be traced to the cult of Saturn-Kronos attested by the name of Mount Kronio-and to the Saturnalia, festivals that took place between December 17 and 23 and were characterized by an exaggerated pursuit of food and sexual pleasure and an upheaval of social roles. The killing of the king of the feast tragically brought back reality and normality.

In 1616, the Viceroy of Sicily Pedro Téllez-Girón (III Duke of Osuna) decreed that on the last day of the festival everyone should be in masks. The first Carnival events were popular celebrations, which featured the partaking of sausages, cannoli, and plenty of wine. People took to the streets, wearing various disguises.

In the 1920s, there were the first masked parades with floats simply set up, carrying masked people on chairs through the streets of the city. These floats, large decorated platforms pulled by oxen or horses, carried masked groups reciting in the local dialect, and accompanied by small improvised orchestras. The stew, sausages, and wine already represented a time of socializing and exchange among countrymen

After the war, the floats were name-named and began to reflect the changes of the times. The streamers and confetti thrown from the floats created a festive atmosphere, embroiling the participants as protagonists of a collective joy. Comedy companies were formed, and increasingly sophisticated floats were set up with local themes and characters treated in a satirical manner.

In the 1980s, with the introduction of sound amplification, the Sciacca Carnival underwent further advancements, with floats featuring larger and larger figures and increasingly sophisticated mechanical movements. Thanks to numerous television coverage on RAI, the Sciacca Carnival became famous throughout Italy in the 1980s and 1990s. Television personalities became testimonials for the event, while local political satire became a showcasing of national and international current issues, making room for characters known to a wider audience.

3 The King of Carnival: Peppi ‘Nnappa

Peppi ‘Nnappa is a timeless figure in Sicilian tradition, emerging in the 16th century with the birth of the Commedia dell’arte,” a theatrical genre in which actors, wearing masks, would improvise their parts. This type of theater maintained its popularity until the 18th century, when it was reformed by Goldoni. Masks created by the “Commedia dell’arte” include characters such as Harlequin, Punchinello, Doctor Balanzone, Columbine, Pantalone, and many others. In this context, Peppi ‘Nnappa stands out as a Sicilian mask, depicting a lazy and mischievous servant, often punished for his mischief. Although he appears on stage yawning and looking neglected, he proves surprisingly agile and entertains the audience with improvised dance moves.

Peppi ‘Nnappa does not wear a mask, and his makeup-free face is shaved with thin eyebrows. His costume includes a very long-sleeved jacket and light blue pants, both of which are loose and too long. He wears a white or light blue felt hat with raised brims on a flat cap and white shoes with buckles, as well as a headband around his neck. The nickname “Nnappa” (“patch”) in Sicilian refers to patched clothing, a symbol of poverty. It is also associated with the part of the pants corresponding to the buttonhole, indicating a “good-for-nothing man.” An insatiable hunger and boundless gluttony characterize the character, making the kitchen his favorite place to be and food his main interest. During the 1950s, Senator Molinari adopted Peppe ‘Nnappa as the mask of the Sciacca carnival, symbolically making him the mayor of the town during the festive days. The mask appears on a float each year in an out-of-competition parade float, opening the carnival parade. Following a tradition of pagan origin, the float is burned in the center of the square while the crowd dances to the notes of the anthem.

“Carnival comes every year! Do you know what the people of Sciacca do? They go down the marina and wait for the king who goes back to his town. There he comes singing, dancing, laughing and merry making the Nippiti Nnà. Refrain: It’s Peppi Nappa, It’s Peppi Nappa, what curious and funny name what Nippiti Nnà. It’s Peppi Nappa, it’s Peppi Nappa, so kind as to bring Carnival to this town. Come runnig boys, Peppi is here, the Nappa he brought to this town, pretty women, the sky and the sea make us sing with happiness. It’s Peppi Nappa, It’s Peppi Nappa, what curious and funny name what Nippiti Nnà”

4 The Carnival of Sciacca

The Sciacca Carnival has several unique and captivating aspects:

The floats:

The Sciacca Carnival floats are famous for their imposing size, detailed papier-mâché workmanship and high-quality decorations that draw on the rich local ceramic tradition. Their extraordinary nature is showcased through their fully mechanical and realistic movements, matched by striking lighting that creates exceptional visual effects.

The floats of the 2024 edition:

Associazione La Nuova Isola: “Le false verità”;

Associazione Nuova Arte 96: “Vecchio cinema (in) paradiso”;

Associazione La nuova avventura: “L’apparenza inganna”;

Associazione La bomboniera: “La resa dei conti”;

Associazione Anima e cuore: “Che… ne… vada la pena!”;

Associazione Aurora 08: “Ma che voice”.

Masked Groups:

Each parade float showcases a masked group related to the specific theme of the float itself. The distinctive feature of these groups lies in the meticulous attention to detail of the costumes and masks, along with carefully crafted choreography. Each group involves more than 100 participants of all ages, who gather in the months leading up to Carnival to perfect the choreography that enlivens the masked parades.

The Music:

Each masked group performs its own choreography to the accompaniment of unreleased musical anthems specially composed for the occasion. The melodies of the Sciacca Carnival are particularly beloved by the public because they provide the ideal soundtrack to the entertainment, thanks to their upbeat and engaging rhythm.

The Satirical Scripts:

The theme of each float is not restricted to papier-mâché, but is also performed through satirical scripts by Sicilian actors. Pungent jokes, rhymes, and poetic or sarcastic verses distinguish this centuries-old tradition, adding a touch of social commentary and humor to the festival.

These distinctive traits all contribute to making the Sciacca Carnival a unique experience, enriched by art, music and traditions that actively involve the local community and capture the attention of a wide audience.

Sciacca Carnival 2024 program.