Eggs, flour and plastic tits - Festa Di Laurea

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Dott-ore, dott-ore
Dottore del buso del cul
Vafancul! Vafancul!

(Doctorate, Doctorate,
Doctor of the hole in your arse
In your arse! In your arse!)

I was at the house of a work colleague when I first heard a group of people bellowing this song.
We looked out of his window to see a student, in a Caeseresque costume with a corona (a crown of laurel leaves) on his head, being punted out onto the River Bacchiglione on a makeshift raft.
As he struggled to maintain his balance, he looked at the stagnant water below him and then up towards his friends and classmates; his face seeming to ask aren't you happy yet?
His friends met his expression by waving goodbye, poking him off-balance with the punting stick and then singing again:

Dott-ore, dott-ore,
Dottore del buso del cul
Vafancul! Vafancul!

Padova is a university city of around 65,000 students - the second largest and most prestigious in Italy. Bologna has the largest university but is only famous because it invented Spaghetti Bolognese.

As Padova thawed into spring, I was witnessing more and more of these public humiliations, always with the same accompanying song, usually backed by an accordion.

Finally, I asked one of my students (a dentist) to explain this particular Padovan tradition in class.
"It's called Laurea... many years ago, you would go to take your laurea... your degree, from the university, and you would wear a... come si dice?... ribbon! You wear the ribbon with the colour of your profession - the red ribbon if you graduate in medicine, the blue ribbon for law, black for engineer, and so... when I went to expose my thesis to the prof, and the commisioner decided to vote for me to become a Dottore, my friends organised a party where I had to walk through them, waiting in a line, and they hit and kick me, very hard, actually. Now, it's a little different, I think."
He laughed, tilting his head, knowingly.

I'd seen the results of todays Golardia ceremonies all around Padova, but especially concentrated in the compact city centre, around Palazzo Bo.
Huge posters (papiri) hang from the walls of the centre, bearing an embarassing history of all the regretful things the student has ever done, written in verse. The papiro is dominated by an unflattering caricature of the person (there are people in Padova who make a living simply from drawing these caricatures).

It's also quite common to see, around and underneath the poster, the gunky remains of an egg-and-flour bath.
The female graduates, often half-naked, more often carrying dildos, are usually defaced with mayonaise, toothpaste and excessive make-up, and then forced to approach strangers and ask them for money.

The males may get similar treatment, but with the added excitement of a public-waxing, before being paraded around the city's bars and cafes looking like an unpaid extra from The Rocky Horror Show.

Indeed, local establishments were becoming so tired of having punters who resembled walking omlettes, that two bars actually installed showers for the benefit of the Feste Di Laurea. If you were to go to Bar Antenore today and ask the manager, Fiorenzo Capuzzo, about the Larea parties, he might mention the student who walked into the bar, soaking wet from having been thrown into the fountain at Piazza Dell'Erbe, and sporting a dead octopus on his head.

A friend, Valentina, showed me her personalised papiro, which her friends had made for her after she'd graduated in mathematics.

"We did the ceremony outside the Maths faculty. There were quite a bit of people there, professors too. My friends had met weeks before to remember all the funny things about me and put them into rhyme, and I had to drink this disgusting mix of wine and fanta and read it aloud in front of everyone..."

In that time you were chaste and pure,
And the rod of stones made you afraid:
"It makes me sick, it's ugly, he also has the equipment*"
Poor boy, for you to cum has filled a bucket!
Finally cedesti and you were to put together,
With joy you could taste his seed:
For years together, he endured a lot,
Always taking with him his bucket.

* equipment - a reference to Valentina's fetish for men who wear braces

"Every time I made a mistake when reading I had to drink, and the more I drunk the more mistakes I would make. My friends dressed me in a mixture of the things that I was obsessed with - tango stockings, basketball gear, a scout hat and a cushion on my ass because I broke my tail bone once."

In one day in March to Dropouts
Have you found a room with 4 idiots.
At first you seemed very reserved,
Not even granting them a chat!
And we were asking, "but who the fuck is this?"

"They were kind with me, compared to most people, though. The only parts I thought were embarassing was the part written by my friend in Holland, where she told everyone about me having skype sex, or the part about some things I did with girls, because my Mum was there and she really hates gays."

Innumerable your fleeting love affairs!
Despite already told him the fifth top:
"Women outnumber men in love!"
To dedicate yourself to women you'd be gone,
Away from the Veneto, no matter where it is.
Ouch! Things turned out differently,
Your dream lesbian was already a lost case.

"It's also written on the papiro that 2 weeks before the ceremony I went to the gym to get fit, but of course, it didn't work out."