Carnevales celebrations are hugely popular in Italy and some cities and town are known all over the world for the creativity and beauty of their parades.

Those of Venice, Viareggio and Cento are probably the most famous in the country and are known worldwide, too. If you decide to visit Italy during Carnevale, and maybe take part in one of its parades, here is some vocabulary to help you getting straight away into the right atmosphere!

Carro di Carnevale:  Carnevale floats, or carri di Carnevale, as we call them in Italy, are one of the major attractions during Carnevale time. Creative and often irreverent, the carri have political and social satire as their main topic, their parades a common sight in villages, towns and cities. The most beautiful  are probably  those of Cento and Viareggio.

Carnevale vocabulary
A “carro mascherato”, allegorical float, at the Carnival in Viareggio, 2014 Ph. depositphotos/marchesini62

Stelle filanti e coriandoli: Adored by children, but widely used by adults. Coriandoli are the equivalent of confetti, a word that, in Italian, actually means sugared almonds! Stelle filanti are the equivalent of English streamers.

carnevale vocabulary
Stelle filanti (streamers) and coriandoli (confetti) are mainly used during Carnival in Italy Ph. depositphotos/limpido

Volo dell’angelo: The “Flight of the Angel” is an amazing event taking place in Venice, host city to what is possibly the best known Italian Carnival in the world. Thanks to mechanical contractions a mysterious, a disguised person jumps off the Campanile of San Marco and “flies” in the air.  This tradition was born as a manner to celebrate and honor the Doge, an old political figure associated to Venice, and symbolizes the relevance of the Carnevale in this city.

carnival vocabulary
The “volo dell’angelo”, flight of the angel, over St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Carnival 2009 Ph. flickr/emmav674

Maschera: mask. In Italy people usually wear masks for Carnevale, adults and children alike. This happens because Carnevale parties revolve around the idea of the masquerade: all people must wear a maschera.

Costume di Carnevale: Dressing up for Carnevale does not only mean wearing a mask, but fully changing your identity for an entire day or night; a costume di Carnevale, literally a Carnival costume, is often that of a traditional Italian mask, whose looks and personality have been passed on to us from older local traditions.

carnival vocabulary
The most famous Costumi di Carnevale are those of Venice Ph. depositphotos/vlad-m

Lasagna: this dish is really popular everywhere in the world and requires very little explanation. It is conventionally associated to Carnevale because it is customary, in many parts of the country, to make it this time of the year, although lasagne remain a popular meal choice all year round.

Martedì Grasso: this is the term Italians use to refer to Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. This day represents the end of  seven ‘fat’, grassi, days.  This week of heavy, rich eating is closely tied  to its religious origins: during this week people would eat the most exquisite food  they had in the house before the beginning of the Quaresima, Lent.

Trombetta: this word represents what is certainly considered a ‘must’ at Carnevale parties. Trombette, party horns, used at Carnevalecan be pretty powerful affairs. One of the most used is the lingua di Menelik, Menelik’s tongue, which does not only honks, but uncurls its long, papery arm when played.

carnival vocabulary
A trombetta (lingua di Menelik) with stelle filanti and coriandoli, a must for a Carnival in Italy Ph. depositphotos/cmnaumann

Berlingaccio: if you are around Florence,  you should definitely visit the city the Thursday before Carnevale. People celebrate this day with a party exalting the traditional Florentine dishes for this period: the schiacciata alla fiorentina and the berlingozzo, which is a typical cake whose shape is similar to that of a donut.

carnival vocabulary
Floats (with Putin and Obama) at the 2015 Viareggio Carnival (Wirsinda Llefreaks/flickr)

“A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale”. This is the true ruling principle of Carnevale in Italy: people will have to accept every joke and prank, as “On Carnival day, anything goes”: you have been warned! No one will have to get angry if victim of a trick!

Edited by Francesca Bezzone

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