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As many know, the term grasso (fat) in reference the two days of Carnival, Tuesday and Thursday, indicates a period in which particularly nutritious foods, sweets, or fats were consumed. This is because the period of the sette giorni grassi (seven ‘fat’ days) precede and end with the martedì grasso (‘fat’ tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday) and the period of Lent where one should devote themselves to purification and leaner foods.

The sette giorni grassi thus became an opportunity to empty pantries of these foods in preparation for the period of forty days before Easter. In Venice, however, the meaning of this saying is probably linked more to the custom of giovedì grasso (the last thursday before lent), which allowed all mouths to lick. It is said, in fact, that during the Serenissima even the poorest could celebrate on the last Thursday of the carnival (without any burden placed upon them) with the considerable portions of bull's meat from bulls killed with a double-edged sword in St. Mark’s Square (see the saying Tagiar ła testa al toro ‘Cut the the bulls head’).

Although the image seems rather bloody to us, there are numerous paintings by the most fashionable artists of the time that depict bull hunts that are enthusiastically watched by the people, to the point of suggesting that these games and distractions were the most appreciated by nobles and common people.

The contests between man and animal were definitively abolished in 1802, precisely on the 22nd of February, when a terrace full of spectators collapsed in front of Palazzo Morosini in Campo Santo Stefano due to a tragic accident caused by a raging bull, causing numerous deaths and injuries.

Published: Saturday, 02 March 2019 — Updated: Saturday, 02 March 2019