Italian Lifestyle

A Rustic Parade and A Donkey Race – An Italian Adventure

Mario, Mario! Piu’ alto, piu’ alto!’*, shouted the men. Everyone around them burst out laughing. Their friend, Mario, looked over, smiled good-naturedly, threw the flag high in the air and then expertly caught it again. The line of flag throwers moved ahead.
Flag throwers at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-3
We were in Romano d’Ezzelino – a small town at the foot of the dewy Monte Grappa of the Venetian Prealps. A parade under the heading of ‘Rustic Corners’ was taking place right in front of us. There was a steady stream of donkey-pulled carts adorned with wild flowers and yellow corns, soldiers in uniforms from the First World War, groups of smiling singing children and adults dressed in clothes from times long gone by. The culmination of it all was to be a donkey race.
For now though the locals were crowding around the town’s central roundabout through which the parade flowed.
The white dove group at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-3
It was Sunday and we were there by pure chance. 
A cart at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
Always on the lookout for exciting local events to enjoy, we had come across the announcement for the rustic parade and the donkey race on a Vicenza website. At the same time we had spotted another festival held on the same day but in the opposite direction from the first one – a local frog and eel event.
It can’t get any more random than that!
Still, it was a very tough choice between the two.
Fluffy donkeys or a bowl of frog legs risotto?! A rustic parade or a plate of fried eel?!
We deliberated on it for 24 hours and only decided where to go once we were already piled in our little red car when the novelty idea of actually eating frog legs (I have tasted eels before) put me off.
So, donkeys won!
A donkey cart at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
And I am so glad they did as it was a fabulous day!
Smiles at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
We arrived in Romano d’Ezzelino in the early afternoon. The town was festively decorated with green and yellow banners sporting the image of a donkey.
A kind local let us park on his verdant lawn at the foot of Monte Grappa and as soon as we stepped outside we could feel that mountain moisture which smells of grass and herbs and makes you breathe in the air in large gulps.
We headed down the street to the roundabout where, we were told, the parade was to take place.
The local people were already there, patiently waiting for the kick-off. 
The audience at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
Almost bang on time the parade began.
Each of the town’s quarters was represented by a different thematic group at the head of which walked a standard-bearer proclaiming its name.
A flag bearer at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
Both local history and customs were explored. There were archers and knights, craftsmen and farmers, soldiers and churchmen, to name but a few. 
There was also a wedding cart.
The wedding cart at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
With the happy couple sitting at the back.
The wedding cart at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-2
Followed by the wedding party carrying pots, pans and other household staples in their hands as gifts.
Gifts for the newlyweds at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
There was a gentleman.
A gentleman at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
And a soldier surrounded by ladies of, ahem, ill repute…
A soldier and women of ill repute at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
There was a baker, giving out cookies. Obviously, I was too busy picking a cookie from his beautifully arranged tray to manage to take a picture. And there were sausage makers whom I didn’t miss.
The sasauge bearers at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
People were smiling and laughing, both the audience and the participants in the parade were exchanging jokes which we, as outsiders, couldn’t quite grasp.
Kids loved being part of the parade, too. Dressed in their outfits from bygone times they laughed, sang and made quite some noise with their old-fashioned rattles.
Amid all the racket, one little star remained fast asleep in her cute vintage pushchair.
A baby in a vintage pushchair at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
There were several animals taking part, too (apart from donkeys, you understand).
Dogs…
A Saint Bernard at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
Soldiers at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
Some splendid horses…
A commander on his horse at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
Soldiers on their horses at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
And I was particularly taken with this pair of bulls.
The bulls cart at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-2
As for this fabulous rooster… Yes, he was balancing on that rake for the duration of the parade. I felt a bit sorry for him, to be honest, as he was attached to it with a thin rope. Afterwards, his proud owner let us pet the rooster for a while and he praised him for being very docile, which he was, so I am hoping he was comfortable and happy on that rake.
Rooster on a rake at the Parade, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy
Right towards the end of the parade, all of a sudden large groups of spectators started to quickly withdraw. They knew something that we didn’t so, curious to find out what was going on, we followed them, too.
After a brisk walk down the road, we reached a small stadium, already chock-full with people and surrounded by an ever expanding crowd.
The Mussodrome, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-2
The announcer, dressed in a military uniform, climbed to the top of the metal structure and welcomed us to the ‘Mussodromo‘ – from ‘musso‘ (donkey in Italian) and ‘hippodrome’. Get it?! I thought it was a rather good term.
We were about to witness the donkey race.
After some toing and froing, the names of the donkeys and their riders were announced. 
The Mussodrome, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-3
The crowd welcomed them all. And then it was ‘ready, steady, go’ and the donkeys flew round the course.
The Mussodrome, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-5
The atmosphere was electric!
Everyone wanted to see the donkeys and cheer them on. There was lots of shouting, laughing and clapping. People were craning their necks, trying to catch a glimpse.
The Mussodrome, Donkey Race, Romano d'Ezzelino, Veneto, Italy-5
Five rounds later it was all done and the donkeys crossed the finishing line. 
Once again the crowd quickly dispersed and streams of people trickled back up the street straight to the marquees with food and drink.
It was a great day! I loved the opportunity to be at such an authentic event where the locals were enjoying themselves and, apart from us, there were no tourists in sight.
Back in our little red car and just before we started on the 45-minute return journey to Vicenza, I thought that this was another Italian adventure I would cherish for years to come.
* ‘Higher, higher!’ in Italian.

About the author

Rossi

Rossi

Hello! I am Rossi - a Bulgarian currently living in Italy after a 14-year stint in England. This is my blog about my life in these three countries, travels around Europe and opinions about the world we live in. For regular updates, please, subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on social media online. You can also get in touch via the Contacts form or by commenting on the articles in my blog.

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