Carnival is an ancient festival which is celebrated all over Italy: from Venice to Viareggio, from Rome to Sardinia and Sicily, every single city has its events, masquerade balls, parades and parties taking place in the streets, piazzas and restaurants. It’s a chance to have fun, not only for the young, dressed up in costumes.

Early Carnevale has pagan roots with the Roman cult of Saturnalia and 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 hold sacrifices.
Carnival is celebrated in the weeks before Lent. And it was in the preparation for Lent, the purging of all festivities, of fatty, rich foods and parties that is thought to be the origin of the excesses of Carnival. In other words, Carnival is the last party that lasts for days.

This year Carnival season began on 22 February and ends on 4 March (the day before ash-Wednesday).

  • Viareggio: Viareggio Carnivalcarnevale viareggio, attracts every year more than one million spectators gathering to attend the magic of the great parades of big floats in papier-maché. This year Viareggio celebrates the 400th birthday of its Carnival! In the city of Viareggio you can also visit the Museum of Carnival, where you can discover all the secrets and the threats of papier – mâché world. In the Museum the history of the Carnival of Viareggio is narrated by original documents, sketches, posters and miniatures. In the museum you can also find a teaching stand where the different stages of the construction of papier – maché works are explained. Visitors can try to manipulate clay and paper to experience the art of manufacturing.
  • Rome: throughout history Rome was always a big centre of Carnival celebrations. Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona are transformed into a hive of activity, hosting open-air theatre and games, as well as the masks for which Carnevale is famous. From Piazza del Popolo departs the great inaugural parade of the carnival: equestrian artists, actors af the Commedia dell’Arte, costumed figurants, historical groups, and exponents of Italian Military Cavalry will parade on horses, floats or by foot. In Piazza del Popolo you can also assist, for example, to high level equestrian art performances, Gladiatorial games, and schools of ancient dances. There are also many concerts, plays and shows in theatres and activities and parties for children in museums, libraries, theatres and piazzas. At Rome Biopark you can find a series of free activities aimed at families: a stage show, face painting and a special extraction. However the best-known of Rome’s annual carnival events takes place along Via del Corso on 4 March: the parade on horseback evokes the Berber horse race that was historically the most important event of the Roman Carnival.

In addition, a big part of Carnival in Italy are the fried sweets! You can find them in the bakeries by late January. The most popular are frappe and castagnole. Castagnole, or frittelle, are fried balls of dough about the size of a chestnut covered in sugar. Frappe (this is the most used name in Rome) are flat, crisp ribbons of sweet pasta fried and covered with sugar or honey or chocolate. These fritters are familiar all over Italy, where they assume many different names, including Frappole or Sfrappole in central Italy, Cenci (“rags”) or Donzelli (“young ladies”) in Tuscany, Crostoli (“crusts”) or Galani in Veneto, Lattughe (“lettuce”) in Romagna, Nastri delle Suore (“ribbons of the nuns”) in Emilia, Bugie (“lies”) in Piemonte, and Chiacchiere (“babbles”) or Meraviglie (“beauties”) in Sardinia.

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