Holiday entertainment: Circus in Italy

Circus in Italy line up snakes, tigers and tightrope walkers without a safety net as family holiday entertainment.

Apart from a long peek over the border crossing at Monte Bianco in the early 1980s my first trip to Italy ended in Villa Rosa di Martinsicuro in the Teramo province. A T-junction of a seaside resort located in the middle of a former river delta. In 1991 the Villa Rosa hotels, villas, horse drawn carriages and all-night open bikini shops, attracted a mixed clientele of Danes and Germans, who might as well have stayed at the Lido in Veneto. Apart from the beach the town had few attraction to offer until the day a circus arrived.

It was not exactly the greatest circus in the world, so all performers had multiple roles and an amazing talent for multitasking. The pot-bellied ringmaster also served as usher, ticket collector, popcorn salesman, juggler, clown and magician. The slightly overweight, middle-aged lady, who sat in the ticket booth, also appeared as a tightrope walker and trapeze artist dressed in red body suit and fishnet stockings. And then there was a very pale, thin young man who spent the break and minutes up to the start of the show chain smoking in a corner. He was the circus’ animal trainer.

Circus in Italy

Even though the text was written years back, circus in Italy maintains the wild traditions as this photo from April 2013 goes to show.

He did all right with the horses and sea lions, but just before the break he had to present a 5-6 meter long python, and it was obvious he did not like it one bit. Still, he wrapped the snake around his neck and carried it around among the audience, so the children could touch it and feel the cold scales, but as soon as the cuddle session was over, the animal was thrown into a box and quickly secured with a lid.

After the intermission the young man stood bare breasted and sweating in the middle of a ring, while a cage with a tiger was presented. The big cat seemed slightly doped, but the animal trainer nevertheless appeared shaky, when he entered the cage and struck his head into the tiger’s jaws. The entire audience held their breath, but luckily tiger’s teeth did not chatter as much as the animal trainer’s, and no heads were lost.

The acrobat, the young man and the animals survived the show, and I was dumbfounded by such a performance with no apparent safety net. Italian circus is truly unforgettable.

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