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Once every three years, during the month of May, Serpo XIII, King of Gnocchi, comes back to Guastalla with all his court, consisting of around 750 people, including a Grand Chamberlain, a Prime Minister, a Cardinal, pages, ladies, knights, soldiers and ordinary people, on ancient carts drawn by oxen and horses! As usual, King Serpo XIII sits on the last cart. After receiving the keys to the town from the Mayor, he rules over Guastalla for 24 hours. In fact, a traditional, secular festivity is going to be celebrated, a festivity which is very dear to Guastalla population of all ages: Gnoccata (Gnocchi Day), now at its 33rd season. On the first day King Serpo XIII is crowned, in front of his subjects. The ceremony is followed by fireworks, juggling performances and a fancy dress Court ball. On the following day, a parade in historical costume winds through the streets of the town and, once it gets to the main square, the King proceeds to a massive distribution of gnocchi: around 2,500 kgs (5511 lbs)!
The present Gnoccata has been to us, citizens of Guastalla, a source of pride, as well as a joy for being together, having fun and showing love to our land. In fact, we have been able to organize a major event even if the town was brought to its knees by an earthquake two years ago. At first the municipality decided to cancel Gnoccata, but a revolt almost broke out in Guastalla! And it is no coincidence that the theme chosen for this year has been cheerfulness, a powerful weapon against difficulties.
Who could interpret it better than Giacomo Valenti, with his contagious high spirits? 198 cm tall (6.5 ft) and weighing 138 kgs (304 lbs), Valenti is a popular television host and wrestling champion, as well as King of Gnocchi in many past seasons of Gnoccata.
The King of Gnocchi, who reminds us of a Carnival character, particularly of the Roman Rex Saturnaliorum, represents the embodiment of a common desire for a return to a Golden Age, when abundant food was available for everyone without distinction.
Held for the first time in the mid-nineteenth century, when millers on the River Po organized a free distribution of gnocchi made with their flour, Gnoccata became, in 1869, an occasion to protest against the hated tax on ground cereals, promulgated the year before and abolished only twelve years later. After the Second World War, Gnoccata was no longer held for many years, but its tradition was resumed in the ‘70s, no longer to be stopped.
Gnoccata has always been, to my brothers and to me, an occasion to have fun, together with our community and, over the years, we have played several roles: I was Marquise Isabella d’Este, but also a farmer, while my brothers and their friends were soldiers or shepherds…
This year, for the first time in many years, I haven’t taken part in the parade, but on Sunday I danced with my friends in the main square, under the arcades in front of the Cathedral, to the music of a wind and percussion band that had participated in the parade and, thanks to the beautiful atmosphere, decided to go on playing, improvising...