During the month of February, in all Italian cities we celebrate Carnival (Carnevale). A riot of masks, confetti, streamers, parades and floats. A party that has ancient origins and is one of the most characteristic folk elements of this beautiful country. But what are the most beautiful carnivals to see in Italy? What are the most famous events?
Here is a guide to the most beautiful carnivals of Italy.
Carnival of Venice
Surely this is the most famous and rich carnival of Italy. Its origins are ancient and date back to 1094, when the Venetian oligarchy (the Serenissima) began to give to the population, including the poorest social classes, a time dedicated to fun and festivities. During this time the Venetians and countrysiders took to the streets to party with music, dancing and suggestive masks.
It is distinguished by the flight of and angel or of ‘Colombina’ , where a woman in a harness descends from the bell tower of San Marco to pay tribute to the Doge.
The nicest part of this carnival, absolutely, remain its masks. The ‘mascherini’, i.e. the artisans of the masks, work all year to create the typical characteristics from Venetian tradition: the harlot, Moretta, cloak and so on. In short, a carnival that at least once in life has to be seen.
Carnival of Ivrea
Feature of the Carnival of Ivrea is above all the complex ceremonial of the historical tradition, such as the spectacular “Battle of Oranges” which has become the symbol of this Carnival. The battle of oranges, dates back to the Napoleonic rule in Piedmont. The battle takes place the last three days of the carnival, on Sunday, ‘Fat’ Monday and ‘Fat’ Tuesdays (Mardi Gras), always in the afternoon, and is the most spectacular moment of the whole event.
Carnival of Viareggio
The Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most important in Italy and Europe because of its parade of floats. The floats of this parade are among the largest and most lively in the world. The basic theme of these wagons is always satire, taking political and social revolution. In 1873 the middle class decided to dress up as a sign of protest against the excessive taxes they had to pay. So through this act of protest was born one of the most spectacular carnivals in Italy.
Carnival of Putignano
It is best known carnival in Puglia and also one of the longest in duration, in fact beginning on December 26 and it also has a second edition in the summer. It ends with an evening parade and celebration of the funeral of the carnival, represented with a pig. Throughout the period of the festivities there are four parades of floats made of paper pulp. The subjects for these floats are taken from the world of politics, culture or society. The beauty of this carnival lies in the sophistication, originality and finish with which the papier mache floats are treated.
Carnival of Fano
The oldest carnival in Italy after Venice. A feature of this carnival are the the wagons of sweets, delicacies and sweets that are launched by ‘jet’ on revellers in the street. Another characteristic is the parade of the Grand Masked Parade, in which the floats are accompanied by folklore groups, musical performances, players in masks and costumes. At the end of the parade an impressive fireworks display is held.
Carnival of Oristano
Founded in 1358 it is most famous for the Sartiglia, the race to the stars (the name is tied to fortune and luck), which is held on the last Sunday and Tuesday of Carnival. Of medieval origin it is one of the most spectacular and well designed and arranged carnival of Sardinia. It is a real equestrian event. Riders participating race their horses in the narrow streets of the old town center. The goal is to pierce with a sword a silver star which is located along the route. The show also includes a performance of a team of two horses, and three groups of riders who perform brave and exciting stunts.
Carnival of Mamoiada
This typical Sardinian carnival features Issohadores and Mamuthones masks.
Issohadores: are men with body dressed in red and a white mask. With lassos, they capture young women. It is a propitiatory gesture to good health and fertility.
The Mamuthones: are men who wear a black mask and have coarse features. They wear fur and heavy bells hung on their backs.
Mamuthones, arranged in two parallel rows move slowly bending under the weight of the bells and with a rhythm, punctuated by the Issohadores, that makes their shoulders shake and rings all the bells. The parade of Mamuthones and Isshoadores is one of the major folk events in Sardinia.
Carnival of Acireale
It is the most beautiful carnival of Sicily, and is held in the beautiful baroque scenery of the old town of Acireale, and culminates in the magnificent Cathedral Square. A feature is its parade of grotesque papier-mâché floats. Wagons fitted with a sophisticated mechanical system, plumbing and lighting offer a unique spectacle. Another feature is flowered floats similar to those of the French Riviera or Liguria.
So to each his own carnival, coming to Italy you can be spoiled for choice.