The legendary clowns from Italy

By Dario Duranti and Kenneth Severinsen



The world famous Italian clowns.


The original clown troupe Rastellis was founded by Oreste (senior) the cousin of Enrico Rastelli, the greatest juggler of the world. In the same troupe there where also his son Alfredo, the "black" august Aristide Ferreira (called "Negrito" or "Chocolate" because of the colour of his skin) and the wife Lena. They presented 2 acts: an acrobatic trampoline act (with the name "Chocolate & Co.) and the clown entrée (as "The Rastellis").

In 1937, when they worked in Cirque Medrano (Paris) they worked with "Rudi" Rolph Zavatta in the role of white face clown.

After the war the role of white face clown was occupied by José Gabastou and after the italian "Santos" Antonio Poletto that remeined with them until the early ‘80s.

Rastellis in Circus Schumann 1949 - Private photo

On Oreste’s death, grandson Oreste (the son of Alfredo) took his place and later "Chocolate" was replaced by the other grandson, Vittorio who is also a good juggler. Finally, when Antonio Poletti left the team was Francesca, the wife of Oreste to occupy the role of whiter face, but this role is not so important for the Rastellis, so for a long time they worked as trio: Alfredo and the 2 sons: Oreste Jr and Vittorio.

Circus Schumann - Denmark - pic from souvenir program

A feature ot this clown act is that the two main augusts are "twin": same cloths, same mask.

Rastellis are very good clowns but above all, virtuous musicians: so when they don’t work in circus as clowns, they sometimes play jazz music in concerts.


In their carrier they alternate contracts in circus to period in the famous ice reviews (Aladdin on Ice, Holiday on Ice, …). During the ‘50s-‘60s they work many times in the Ice Reviews. In 1966 they are in the programme of Circus Heros (Togni-Castilla) Holland tour. In 1967 they work in Circus Knie. In 1974 and 1977 Rastellis work in Circus Scott and in 1978 in Circus Shumann. In the late ‘70s they came back in the italian Circo Americano (by Togni) untill 1985. In 1982 they make some months in Blackpool Tower Circus (UK) while in march 1984 they partecipate (with the whole Amrican Circus programme) to the ATA show in Wien.

In 1984 they was part of Circus Scott's television performance  in Sweden called Clown Clown. Here with the white face clown  - Antonio Poletti. In this television show, there was a lot of great clowns and clown troups - Charlie Rivel, George Carl, Joe Jackson Jr. , Galetti and many many others. It is possible to buy this video in Circus Scott's Web store. The language is Swedish, so people there don't understand Swedish can write to Circus Scandinavia for help.

From 1985 they came back for several season to Holiday On Ice reviews.

Rastellis in Forum- Copenhagen 1960 - Holliday on Ice show.

In winter 1995/96 they make their first appearance in tradiutional circus after 11 years in Circo Americano (Christmas, Milan). After that, they start to work for short period in parks (Luneur – Rome; Fiabilandia – Rimini) in Italy during the saison.


In summer 1996 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great juggler Enrico Rastelli, the Rastelli Family organise in Bergamo, the birth town of that family, in North of Italy the "Circo Rastelli" (in society with Circo David Orfei) a circus show that includes the acts of the Rastellis and some more traditional acts. In the same occasion is organised an exposition about the great juggler.

In november 1996 Rastellis took part to the "4° Gran Premio Internazionale del Circo" in Viareggio as guest star and they received the "Platinum Ring Award" (Pista di Platino), an award that in the previous editions was given to Flavio Togni, David Larible and the russian juggler Serguei Ignatov as reward for their rich carriers.  


Rastellis - Circus Schumann souvenir program 1978

In january 2001 Rastellis partecipate to the 24° Monte Carlo Circus Festival where Oreste receive an award from Prince Ranieri III for his carrier. In this occasion they say that it would have been their last show. Fortunately it was not true. So they continue to work during the winter in circus. But they don’t want to sign long concracts for a whole saison. In saison 2001 they make some galas in France and after they are in Circo Medrano-Casartelli for the Slovenian Tour. For the winter 2001/2002 Rastellis, in society with Casartelli-De Rocchi opens a little "circus on ice" where they present the musical clown entrée, Vittorio as Juggler and the tale of Pinocchio on Ice. They, in fact, are owner of a ice floor (similar to the one of Holiday on Ice, but smaller).

Oreste Rastelli In Circus Krone (Germany) February 2002

In march 2002 they work in Circus Krone (Munchen) and after, during the summer, in the Clown Festival in Bakken (Copenhagen). Here they won the golden nose award – A festival arranged by Benny Schumann, Grand child to the world famous Spanish Clown – Charlie Rivel. Last week (november 2002) they partecipate to the Barcellona Clown Festival ("Euroclowns") directed by Genìs Gimenez Matabosch in a very rich programme which included also Peter Shub, Sister Pillieres, Les Nerys set in "Circo Raluy".

Not only as clowns - here in Circus Scumann 1949 with their trampolin act.

In the exposition "Jours de Cirque" organised in Monte Carlo in summer 2002 there were some very old clowns costumes and musical instruments belonging to the Rastellis.


Rastellis are famous also for the musical instruments: big trompets – Alfredo can play two at one time, explosive piano are the protagonist of their clown entrée. After the Rastellis, the most of the clown entrée have copied these elements: so in the ‘70-‘80 there where lots of clown entrées with "twin" clowns, explosive instruments and sometime with the same musical passages.

Their importance consists just in this ability to invent (or diffuse) an original clown style that remeber the Fratellini style.


Kennetrh Severinsen (a few words and pics) Dario Duranti (mostly)

Alfredo Rastelli

  (photo Kenneth Severinsen)

 2002 - Bakken - Denmark


Alfredo Rastelli

  (photo Kenneth Severinsen)

 2002 - Bakken - Denmark


Alfredo Rastelli

 (photo Kenneth Severinsen)

 2002 - Bakken - Denmark


Alfredo Rastelli

 (photo Kenneth Severinsen)

 2002 - Bakken - Denmark


Alfredo and Oreste Rastelli

 (photo Kenneth Severinsen)

 2002 - Bakken - Denmark


Vitorio Rastelli

 (photo Kenneth Severinsen)

 2002 - Bakken - Denmark



Short resume of the work of Rastellis:


1937 Circus Medrano – Paris – France.

1949 Circus Schumann – Copenhagen- Denmark.

1954 Circus Schumann – Copenhagen – Denmark

1960 Holliday on Ice

1966 Circus Heroes – Italy – Holland tour.

1967 Circus Knie – Suisse.

1974 Circus Scott – Sweden.

1974 Circus Scott – Clown – Clown – TV performance - Sweden

1977 Circus Scott - Sweden

1978 Circus Schumann – Tent – Denmark.

1980 Circus Americano – Italy.

1981 Circus Americano – Italy.

1982 Circus Americano – Italy.

1982 Black pool Towers – England

1983 Circus Americano – Italy.

1984 Circus Americano – Italy.

1984 ATA show in Wien

1985 Holliday om Ice.

1986 Holliday om Ice.

1987 Holliday om Ice.

1995 Circus Americano – Italy

1996 Circus Americano - Italy

1997 Amusments parks in Italy

2001 Monte Carlo circus festival

2002 Circus Krone – Munchen – Germany (March program)

2002 Bakken Amusement park - Denmark