Carnevale is one of Italy’s biggest winter festivals, celebrated in the weeks before Lent. The final day of Carnevale is Martedì Grasso (Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Mardi Gras, along with the Thursday before, called Giovedí Grasso (Fat Thursday), are the main days of Carnival.
Because the date of Easter changes every year, so does the period of Carnival, even though Italians begin to celebrate it from the end of January. This year Mardi gras is on February 17th.

Italy is the birthplace of Carnival celebrations, having its origins in the ancient Roman cult of Saturnalia, fertility rites to honor the god Saturn. You can still see the ruins of the Temple of Saturn at the Roman Forum in Rome, where they used to hold sacrifices.

The most famous and typical Carnivals in Italy are in Venice, Viareggio (on the Tuscany coast) and Ivrea (Piedmont).

However, Carnival is celebrated all over Italy: every single city has its events, masquerade balls, costume parties and parades taking place in streets, piazzas and restaurants. Masks, sweets and having fun are the most important things during Carnival: it’s a chance to be happy and cheerful, not only for children, dressed up in costumes.

Wherever you are in Italy in Carnival time, just grab a mask you like and enjoy the celebrations!

carnevale Venezia_carnevale_wikipediaCarnival of Venice

From January 31st this year, events and entertainment are held throughout Venice. During all Carnival period the city is filled with people wearing elaborate costumes and masks, and with food stalls. Some public highlights are gondolas and boats parades along the Grand Canal, masks parades in Saint Mark’s Square, and the big fireworks show on the last day of Carnival.
For further information on the events, visit the Carnival of Venice site, and see the Program of the main events of the Carnival of Venice 2015.

Viareggio Carnival

Carnevaleviareggio wikipediaViareggio Carnival attracts every year more than one million spectators gathering to attend the great Parades of giant allegorical papier-maché floats. This year, starting on January 31st and for the whole month of February, the city transforms itself into the factory of fun, including five great Masked Parades along the avenues near the sea, night parties, fireworks, masked balls, theatrical performances, culinary events and sport events. Tickets are required for the admission to the parade.
In the city of Viareggio you can also visit the Museum of Carnival, where you can discover the history of the Carnival and all the secrets and the threats of papier -mâché world. You can also try to manipulate clay and paper to experience the art of manufacturing.

Carnival of Ivrea

BattagliaMercenariIvrea wikimediaThe city of Ivrea, in the Piedmont region, has a very peculiar Carnival celebration, the Historical Carnival of Ivrea, that includes the characteristic “Battle of Oranges”. The spirit of Carnival lives through the re-enactment of the city’s liberation from tyranny dating back to Medieval times: a baron who starved the city was driven away thanks to a miller’s daughter who roused the people to revolt. Nowadays the Battle of Oranges takes place in the main squares of the city between teams on carts, wearing protective mask (symbolizing the tyrant’s guards with armors) and hundreds of orange-throwers on foot without any protection (the rebellious commoners). Together with all the historical events in the Carnival at Ivrea, the Orange Battles constitutes an incredible cultural and goliardic heritage, and an event in which anyone can be involved.
This year the main Battle of Oranges will take place on February 15th (Sunday of Carnival). Tickets are required. Here the complete program of the Historical Carnival of Ivrea.
In order to show their involvement in the event, from the Thursday before Lent all townspeople and visitors wear the “Berretto Frigio” (Phrygian cap), a red stocking-like hat that shows their support for revolt and therefore their aspiration to freedom, as it was for the heroes of the French Revolution. The red hat is also a signal for the orange- throwers that you are a spectator and they will not throw fruit directly on you. If you want to witness this exciting event, take also note of the routes which are meant specifically for visitors and spectators: these are usually marked by nets draped around buildings, that can repair you from flying-fruit.

Carnival in Rome (Gran Carnevale Romano)

carnevale a roma da grancarnevaleromanoRome is the place where Carnival began, and throughout history has always been a big centre of Carnival celebrations. From February 1st to Tuesday 17th, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona and Via del Corso are turned into a hive of activity, hosting open-air theatre, games, workshops, equestrian art performances, activities and parties for children, as well as the masks for which Carnevale is famous. The big Carnival Parade, on Februry 17th, is the main part of Carnival celebrations, and be formed by many masked groups and floats, typical roman masks, costumed figurants, and historical groups. Taking part to the parade will allow you to be spectator and actor at the same time! That evening Carnevale ends with the annual firework display in Piazza del Popolo.
A peculiarity of this year Roman Carnival is that materials employed to build the colorful structures are only low-cost and recycled.
Visit this site for more information.

Photos: wikipedia, wikimedia,; featured image by Frank Kovalcheck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *