You are probably familiar with Carnival celebration in New Orleans (called Mardi Gras) and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, but Carnevale is also one of the most famous festivals all around Italy.
Celebrations usually are held from the second weekend of February until mid-March, depending on the region.
Carnevale was originally a Catholic holiday that takes place 40 days before Easter, just before the start of Lent, where people traditionally gave up all sorts of things, starting with meat. The world Carnevale, in fact, has its roots in the Latin word “carnem-levamen”, which means “giving up meat”.
The oldest records of celebrations for this festival are tracing back to the medieval era, but similar ceremonies were likely taking place in pre-Christian times, and then got adapted to fit into the Catholic rituals.
In every town of Italy people celebrate Carnevale, so no matter where you are, you are likely to see masks, Carnival floats, confetti and streamers, and eat some special food.
Italian food for Carnevale
Carnevale period is a feast of delicious food that will terminate on Martedì Grasso, the very last day that you would be allowed to spend binging on rich fatty dishes and mainly fried sweets.
Each region has its own version, but you will find deep-fried pastries called frappe, chiacchere, bugie, cenci, guanti, galani, crostole and more, all over the Italian territory.
They are made from a thin sheet of dough, with flour, sugar, butter, and eggs finely stretched and then fried in hot oil, and finally covered with a generous layer of icing sugar or a drizzle of chocolate.
Another typical sweet is Castagnole, made pretty much with the same ingredients but shaped in little balls, deep-fried, covered in casting sugar, and sometimes filled up with jam or custard.
In Naples, you will find a semolina cake called Migliaccio. Originally made with millet, now it is made with wheat middling, ricotta cheese, milk, vanilla, butter, cream, oranges, and lemon. This delicious cake is probably one of the few desserts of Carnevale that is not deep-fried!
But Italian food is not only about desserts! As we all know, Lasagna is the most commonly known pasta dish around the world – though, in Naples there is a particular version of it served during Carnevale. It’s made with pasta, meat sauce, ricotta cheese, boiled eggs, meatballs, sausages, mozzarella, and provolone.
We bet you’ll be the first one to want to start Lent after eating this.
Famous Carnivals in Italy
As we mentioned before, you can find Carnevale celebration all over Italy; however, there are some very particular ones you do not want to miss out on.
CARNEVALE DI VENEZIA is one of the most famous Carnival in the world, dating back as early as 1094 a.C.
Even if you do not attend any of the fancy masquerade balls or private party, walking around will be still a one in a lifetime experience.
And if you want to live a full Carnival experience, you can check all the activities on their official website. (https://www.carnevale.venezia.it/en/)
CARNEVALE DI IVREA and its Battaglia delle Arance is the re-enactment of a historical event that took place in the Middle Age. Violetta (the young daughter of the miller) refused to follow the Medieval law stating that, after the marriage of any couple living on his lands, the lord had the right to spend the first night with the bride. She got into the castle, and she killed her abuser with a knife she had hidden in her hair. The killing of the tyrant started a rebellion between the lord’s army and the people of Ivrea, where oranges are replacing original weapons.
CARNEVALE DI CENTO, in the Emilia-Romagna region, is linked to the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Their floats are inspired by traditional fables, public figures, and famous personalities such as politicians. During the parade, they will throw gadgets and candies to the crowd. The winning float in the Cento parade is then taken to Brazil for their Carnival festivities.
CARNEVALE DI VIAREGGIO dates back to 1873, and it lasts for about a month. The charming seaside town is transformed by parades of giant paper-maichè floats (mainly satirical, reflecting current events and politics), night parties, fireworks, and food events.
However, if you want to see the fantastic parade, you have to buy a ticket in advance.
Therefore, if you love fancy dressing and you are in a party mood, this is probably one of the best months to visit Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!