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Carnevale in Italia
A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale - Anything goes at carnival.
The word carnival comes from the Latin carnem levare, an expression used in the middle ages that marked the beginning of the Lent fast.
Carnevale is the huge winter festivals that are celebrated around the country with parades, masquerade balls, entertainment, music, and parties.
Carnival goers at Lungomare - Salerno
Carnevale, like Carnivals in the UK and US and Mardi gras in other parts of the world, is celebrated in Italy forty days before Easter, as a final party before Ash Wednesday and the restrictions of Lent. Carnevale is one of Italy's biggest festivals and events often last for two to three weeks before the actual carnival day. Many Italian towns celebrate Carnevale the weekend before the actual carnival date, which is on Shrove Tuesday.
Carnevale has roots in pagan festivals and traditions and as is often the case with traditional festivals was adapted to fit into the Catholic rituals. Note that Lent is a time of the year during which one was not allowed to eat meat (Carne) but like many other festivals of our calendar, it derives from an ancient roman cult the Saturnalia, pagan rites of fertility which were celebrated in honour of the god Saturn.
During those celebrations everything was allowed, even disguising and change of rules. Carnivals were modified substantially because of its magic and ritual nature with Christianity, but the clergy still tolerated it. During the 15th and 16th century some traditions were recaptured and the use of masks and public fancies spread all over the country. Although carnival is actually one date, in Venice and some other places in Italy the carnival celebrations and parties may begin a couple weeks before.
Because the date of Easter changes yearly, so does the date for Carnevale.
A clown provides entertainment for the Children in Lungomare - Salerno
Flamenco dancers perform for the Carnevale goers in Lungomare - Salerno
Flamenco dancers perform for the Carnevale goers in Lungomare - Salerno
Carnevale goers have a go at the flamenco dancing
Masks, (maschere) are an important part of the Carnevale festival and Venice is the best city for traditional carnival masks. Carnival masks are sold year round and can be found in many shops in Venice, ranging from cheap masks to elaborate and expensive masks. Walking through the streets of Venice, it's a pleasure to view the variety of masks on display in shop windows.
In Umbria and Terni parades with allegoric chariots took place every year in Montecastrilli, the same kind of exhibition takes place in Guardea on February the 15th and the 22nd.
By the way, in the whole Umbrian territory, you may find parades of allegory chariots with masks, plays and exhibitions of typical masks and dresses.
A folkloristic exhibition followed by a snack with typical cakes and sweets took place in the Bricks and Terracotta museum of Contignano, which was a hamlet of Marsciano.
On February 26th in the Città di Castello centre there are party games, plays in carnival clothes and music.
A little girl in her carnival dress
Children parading in their carnival dresses
A young boy dressed as Charlie Chaplin for carnival
During the carnival in Umbria you may taste the struffoli, a sweet typical of Perugia made with honey, sugar and candied fruits. The most common are the frittelle and obviously the frappe and castagnole. The cicerchiata is another typical Umbrian recipe. This one, like the struffoli, is a traditional Umbrian sweet, but has been wrongly considered Abruzzian. It is made with small balls of pasta sunk in orange honey and garnished with candies and sugared almonds.
Although Italy has many carnevale celebrations, Venice, Viareggio, and Cento hold some of the biggest and most elaborate carnevale festivals while the oldest carnevale may be in Verona. There are also some unusual carnevale celebrations in Italy, such as Ivrea's orange-throwing carnevale.
If you're planning to go to Italy for a carnevale celebration, especially in popular cities such as Venice and Viareggio, you'll need to make reservations up to a year ahead of time:
- Feb 21 2012
- Feb 12 2013
- Mar 04 2014
- Feb 17 2015
- Feb 09 2016
- Feb 28 2017
- Feb 13 2018
- Mar 05 2019
- Feb 25 2020
Venice's Carnival celebration lasts for nearly 2 weeks. Events are held nightly in various locations throughout Venice and include masquerade and costume balls, concerts, dinners, and festivals.
Note: More formal Carnevale events require reservations ahead of time and some of the more extravagant balls are quite costly.
Some public highlights are:
Gondola and boat parades along the Grand Canal
Mask parades in St. Mark's Square (Piazza del S.Marco)
Feb 18 3pm Carnival for Children in the Cannaregio district
Grand fireworks show on the final day to end the carnival celebration
Throughout the carnival season there will be partying and people in costumes in most of the squares.
Not far from Venice, Verona has one of the oldest carnevale celebrations in Italy, dating from 1615. On the day of Carnival (Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday) Verona has a huge parade with more than 500 floats. 15,000 kg of sweets are thrown out into the crowd!
Viareggio, on the Tuscany coast, has one of the biggest Carnevale celebrations in Italy. The Viareggio Carnevale is a "celebration in the name of peace, love and solidarity" and will involve many European cities with important carnivals.
Admission is charged to view the various parades. Festivals, cultural events, and masked balls took place throughout the carnival season both in Viareggio and nearby and restaurants had special carnival menus.
The Carnival Museum, Cittadella del Carnevale di Viareggio, is open Saturdays and Sundays from 3:30 to 5:30 PM.
Ivrea Orange Throwing Carnevale
The town of Ivrea, in the Piedmont region, has a unique carnival celebration with medieval roots. The carnival includes a colourful parade followed by orange-throwing battles in the centre of town. The culminating event is the burning of the scarli (big poles, erected in the middle of each district's square, covered with dry bushes) on the evening of
Other events were scheduled during this time as well.
Pont St. Martin - Roman Carnevale
Pont St. Martin in the Val d'Aosta region of northwestern Italy celebrates carnival Roman style with nymphs and people dressed in togas. Sometimes there's even a chariot race. On Shrove Tuesday Evening, festivities culminate by hanging and burning an effigy of the devil on the 2000 year-old bridge.
Brazilian Carnevale in Italy
Cento, in the Emilia Romagna region, is linked to the most famous Carnevale celebration in the world, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Floats are very high quality and often include items from Brazil. The winning float in the Cento parade is actually taken to Brazil for their carnivale. Participants arrive from all over Italy to march in the parade or ride along on their motorcycles. 13608 kg of sweets are thrown to spectators during the parade. Cento is about two hours from Milan, between Bologna, Ferrara, and Modena.
Equestrian Carnival and Jousting Tournament in Sardinia
The town of Oristano, in Sardinia, celebrates Carnevale with a costumed parade, horse races, and a re-enactment of a medieval jousting tournament.
Snow Carnival in the Alps
The Alpine resort town of Livigno, near the Swiss border, celebrates Carnival with a procession of downhill skiers, followed by an obstacle race, fancy dress ball, and traditional parade in the streets.
Albanian Carnival in Calabria
The southern Italian region of Calabria has Albanian settlements. In the town of Lungro, there is a carnival parade of people in traditional Albanian costumes. The Carnival of Pollino in Castrovillari includes women dressed in intricate local costume and celebrates the Pollino wine of the region, Lacrima di Castrovillari. Also in northern Calabria, in Montalto Uffugo, there's an interesting wedding parade of men wearing women's dresses. They hand out sweets and tastes of Pollino wine. Following the parade, the kings and queens arrive for a night of dancing wearing costumes that include giant heads.