In Italy February is the month of carnival.
What is Carnevale in Italy?
Carnevale is the last celebration before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Traditonally, Lent is the time before Easter when people deprive themselves of something that they enjoy.
The idea is to have a party before Lent starts. And these parties are held all over Italy. From Venice and Milan in the North to Sicily in the South. Many of the biggest celebrations are on Martedi Grasso or ‘Fat Tuesday’.
In Italy carnivals find their foundations in ancient traditions, and they are well-known on an international level, drawing thousands of visitors from around the world annually. It is worth doing a little tour of Italian carnivals in February to attend at least the most famous ones. Starting with the Veneto Region, the Carnival of Venice is the Carnival of all Italian Carnivals.
Dates: 16th February to 5th March 2019
One of the most famous festivals, known for the imagery of the masks and elaborate costumes. It was established by Venetian oligarchs to offer the citizens of Venice a time of festivities and entertainment, where everyone was equal to mix together without discrimination of social class, gender and religion. It was a time for celebration. Today, the Carnival of Venice is a wonderful, unique display and for two weeks the celebration and carnival continue with parades and events.
Dates: 28th February to 5th March 2019
A little lesser known than Venice is the Rome Festival. It is a fabulous time to visit Rome, with people celebrating and enjoying the carnival.
Carnevale Romano traditionally starts on Via del Corso, the historical Roman road that is the main street in Ancient Roman times and was the starting point for many parades throughout the centuries. Today, people parade along Via del Corso dressed in costumes and masks to the delight of the crowd. For the length of Carnival (around 10 days) the city it full with musicals, theatre shows and performances.
One of the most exciting events is the opening ceremony, with parades of the colourful costumes and high energy that makes it a fantastic atmosphere to experience.
Date: 1st March 2019
Verona has the oldest Carnevale history in Italy and is held on one day, the Friday before Shrove Tuesday. It seems to date back to 1531 when there was a severe famine in the city and bakers were forced to stop making bread due to the price of flour being to expensive. With the lack of food, tension was building and riots followed among the residents. Thankfully, a full-blown uprising was avoided because the wealthy citizens created a committee and purchased wheat and flour, distributing it to those in need and to the backers. The Carnival was created in thanks for the famine being over.
Verona is an interesting festival. With the main character being ‘Daddy Gnocchi’, an old bearded man carrying a big fork. On the grand parade, there are masks and the traditional distribution of gnocchi. This tradition of giving out gnocchi started with a member of the committee, Tommaso da Vico who was a wealthy physician and is thought of as the founder of the Carnival in Verona. On his death in 1531, Tommaso left a note in his will that each year, part of his wealth should be used to give out bread, wine, butter, cheese and flour to the people living in the District of San Zeno in order to prepare gnocchi on the Friday before Carnival.
It is an amazing atmosphere to experience when Italy is in Carnevale!