Ciao a tutti! Today let’s look at one of my most favorite times of the year in Italy, Carnival! Carnival or carnevale is a winter festival, taking place in the weeks before Easter. Traditionally, Carnevale starts about a month before the Lenten season. Lent is the 40 days before Easter when Italians and Catholics everywhere give up a vice in honor of the sacrifice Jesus made when he was crucified. While Lent is always 40 days before Easter, the dates for carnival change every year because Easter changes every year, but, in general, it can be thought of as a last hurrah before the solemn Easter season begins. The day before Ash Wednesday (the official start of Lent) is in fact called Fat Tuesday, or Martedi grosso because it’s the last party! In Italy, kids and adults dress up (like Halloween in the US) and parades, elaborate floats, decorations and merriment ensues. The word Carnevale is thought to come from the Latin, carne – meat and levare – remove – as during giving up meat is often a part of Lent.
Back to the fun part though. Italy really does Carnevale right, with some of the biggest celebrations taking place in Venice and Viareggio. I have been to both and love them for different reasons.
In Venice, the actual birthplace of Carnevale in 1094, you will find the classic Venetian mask. If you’re not sure what that is, google it, and I am sure you’ll recall seeing it somewhere. There is something eerie and beautiful about seeing a city full of masked people, in truly elaborate dress, taking boats and moving about the piazze.
In Viareggio instead, there is a 150 year tradition of holding a parade with paper-mache floats that are truly mind boggling. Each year is a theme and float makers work all year on their creations.
If you want to check out either one, be sure to follow me on instagram, theItalianista where I will share all the fun.