If you’re planning a trip to Italy, consider visiting during the month of February. Citizens throughout the country host carnivals that run from January 6th (the day of Epiphany, sometimes called Three Kings’ Day) until the beginning of Lent (46 days before Easter Sunday). Italy’s modern carnivals honor traditions and historical events that go back hundreds of years. While you’ll have to move fast to book a flight overseas for 2018, there’s plenty of time to visit these carnivals next year.
Standing the Test of Time
Today’s carnivals evolved from ancient Roman celebration of the new year, called Saturnalia. Throughout the centuries it became an opportunity to dissolve established social classes. Since many carnivals involved were masquerades, Italians used the masks to interact with people normally beyond reach. Palaces in Venice threw lavish parties that are still held today.
Still some carnivals are more known for their events, like the Carnival of Ivrea in the Province of Turin. Their “Battle of the Oranges” re-enacts the city’s civil war, where locals representing the Emperor’s Army on one side and the people on the other throw oranges at each other. Standing in for the arrows used in the real battle, those representing the Army throw citrus from floats in the parade. One of the oldest carnivals in the Marches region, Carnival of Fano, features candy thrown from floats instead of oranges. Possibly the biggest carnival is the Carnival of Viareggio, which welcomed 325,000 people in 2011. Their parade is filled with enormous and technologically-advanced floats that often feature caricatures of celebrities.
Venice hosts the most extravagant carnival in Italy. For two weeks, residents and visitors revel along the coast of the Venetian lagoon. In addition to the masked balls, guests enjoy parades and a variety of events. Witness the Flight of the Angel, an astonishing tribute to a Turkish acrobat who introduced it in the year 1500. The present-day version involves dropping down on a secure cable from St. Mark’s Bell Tower to Doge’s Palace.
Other Carnivals Throughout Italy
While Venice has the most famous carnival, visitors can fill their trip with Italy’s many other festivities. The Carnival of Putiganano ranks as the longest carnival since it runs from December 26th until Fat Tuesday, or the day before Lent. Along with the usual masked parties and parades, the city in Itria Valley features a poetry marathon where poets recite their best in the piazza. The Carnival of Sciacca showcases papier-mache crafted by local pottery artists, leading up to a finale where the king of the Carnival’s mask and float are burned. Some of the most beautiful floats are in the Carnival of Aciraele in the Province of Catania, where they’re decorated with flowers.
While a trip to Italy is amazing any time of the year, you can party like a native if you plan your visit between the Day of Epiphany and Lent. A fun carnival rich with Italian history won’t be hard to find!