I'm just back from a absolutely awesome research trip to Florence. I've never been before so as well as taking in all the amazing usual suspects, sightseeing wise, I managed to squeeze in some other really great stuff.
No trip to Florence is complete without visiting Prof. Agostino Dessi. Originally from Sardinia, he now runs the incredible workshop and studio, 'Alice's Mask Studio' with his daughter. His first foray into mask making was for Mamoiada Carnival, which appears in Festival Folk. I was so excited to discover he'd starting making Mamuthones masks again after 40 years and had to grab one for my collection.
Stenterello is the the traditional character of Florence Carnival and the only clown native to the city. He was created in the 18th century by Artist Luigi Del Buono. We visited the plaque to his creation on the site of a former theatre.
We also visited Viareggio and the Carnival Museum. The first parade was held in 1873 and is one of Italy's largest (and amazing) carnivals. Originally organised by wealthy residents, poor locals wore masks and protested against the high taxes they were made to pay. The carnival retains this satirical edge, with most float designs satirising current political figures. The official mascot is Burlamacco, designed by Umberto Bonetti in 1931, his red and white colour scheme parasols on Viareggio beach. The museum is full of amazing stuff, float designs, costumes and original posters. I highly recommend a trip to see collection.
I also managed to pick up some other great bits from shops all over Florence. A great Farmi 1970s rabbit toy, some wooden vegetable characters from Bartolucci and 99c store masks.