Carnival in Italy: where to celebrate it and what to eat

Carnival in Italy: where to celebrate it and what to eat Carnival in Italy: where to celebrate it and what to eat

Tourist information

17 Feb 2023

Carnival is a special festival in many Italian cities, especially in Venice that has a long tradition and represents the Italian carnival most known by tourists from all over the world.

Carnival in Italy, is celebrated 40 days before Easter and lasts two or three weeks or a weekend (depending on the city) before Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.

The origins of carnival

The carnival has ancient origins. They were the first Ancient Egyptians to honor the Goddess Isis with masked parties, later becoming a typical custom in the Greek world and even in that of the Roman Empire. Also in many other parts of the world, especially in the East, there were many festivals with ceremonies and processions in which one disguised himself, famous was the feast of Babylon.

Even the origin of the word is very ancient; it goes back to the first act drawn up by the monastery of Subiaco in 965, to which it is wanted to attribute the meaning of "new life", that is, the passage from winter to spring. Only later, the term "carnival" was connoted with meanings linked to the ban imposed by the Church to eat meat during Lent and the more macabre aspect of the expression "to leave the meat".

The mask thus acquires throughout history various functions and symbols: those of nature, the call to the world of the dead and in contrast also of the vital energies, symbol of new life and therefore of celebration.

Ancient Carnivals in Italy

Among the oldest carnivals in Italy, beyond that of Venice we have the Carnival of Fano.

The Carnival of Fano, in the Marche, is considered one of the oldest in Italy, being documented since the Middle Ages. It usually takes place in February, and includes a series of events such as parade floats, music and dance performances, and masquerade contests, including the parade of the "historical masks" representing the local traditions of the Carnival of Fano, like the mask of the Pupo (sacred animal on which the community put all the individual and collective sins).

Among the traditions of the Carnival in Fano, we have the jet of sweets that consists in launching to the crowd of tons of sweets of all kinds, including the famous Baci Perugina.

Where and how to celebrate carnival in Italy

Carnival in Italy

If you plan to visit Italy in winter, you can not miss the events that will be held during the Carnival.

Here we present a list of places to celebrate it and what to eat during your Carnival in Italy!

Carnival in Venice

Venice will be full of events during the Carnival from 8 to 25 February.

You will meet a lot of people dressed in extravagant costumes and original masks, and you will feel a joyful and festive atmosphere around the narrow streets of the city.

In the evening you can spend your time attending a private party, a masked ball or enjoying the free entertainment available in St Mark’s Square, the center of the Venice Carnival.

If you are interested in buying a mask, you should visit the Atelier Marega: it offers many historical Venetian costumes (custom made), and authentic, unique and beautiful masks of the highest quality.

Sweets of Carnival in Venice
During Carnival in Venice, you can taste two typical desserts: the Galani and the Castagnole, and a lot of pancakes are waiting for you!

Carnival in Lazio

If you are travelling to Rome and its surroundings, you can choose one of the traditional carnival parties that will be held in Lazio:

  • Carnival of Frascati: The city of the Castelli Romani will welcome you with masks, parades, events, folklore and the inevitable "Pulcinella"
  • Carnival of Ronciglione: During the Carnival, Ronciglione becomes the city of fun with parades, gala classes, masks, gastronomic events
  • Carnival of Prenestino: During the opening of the Festival there will be a parade of waders and mascots, and a parade of floats and masked groups. There will also be entertainment, parades, shows in the streets and squares
  • Tivoli Carnival: The program of the Festival includes traditional parades of floats of the Carnival and various special events.

Food Carnival in Lazio
We recommend you to eat to traditional carnival sweets: the Frappe and the Castagnole.
The first ones are strip-shaped sweets, made with flour, eggs and sugar, baked or fried. Then are enriched with icing sugar, honey or liqueur. The second ones are small balls of flour, eggs, sugar and butter fried and covered with icing sugar and cinnamon.

Carnival in Tuscany

Also in Tuscany you will find many events during the Carnival, especially in Viareggio where it is celebrated with a great and famous party: a unique show of masks, music, satire and lots of fun.

The Carnival of Viareggio

Many tourists come to Viareggio to admire the parade of floats during the five days of the masked courses on the avenues of the sea.

These papier-mâché giants have truly impressive dimensions and are considered the largest carnival floats in the world.

The opening of the festival is celebrated with a triple cannon shot from the sea and ritual fireworks.

Other famous carnivals in Tuscany are:

  • Carnival of Follonica: is one of the most beautiful masked parties of the Tuscan Riviera. The event will be enlivened by masked groups, music and the famous election of the Queen of the Carnival of Follonica. The traditional parade of floats along the seafront and the main streets of the historic center will be a must.
  • Carnival of the Sons of Bocco: is celebrated in the beautiful village of Castiglion Fibocchi, jewel of the Tuscan hills in the province of Arezzo. In a medieval atmosphere, you can meet the locals with their faces covered with beautiful handmade papier-mâché masks and admire the ancient village invaded by a bright glitter of colors.


Sweets of Carnival in Tuscany
If you are in Tuscany during the Carnival party, you have to eat at least one of these six traditional desserts:

  • Schiacciata alla Fiorentina: In the ancient version it was prepared with the use of yeast, a double leavening and the addition of lard
  • Frati: Sweet fried donuts, empty or filled with cream. Famous especially in the city of Livorno
  • Zuccherini: The typical dessert of the Carnival of Fucecchio. It is a poor dessert and is made with a dough similar to that used for dry biscuits
  • Berlingozzo: It’s a donut
  • Rice pancakes: They are also known as Saint Joseph’s pancakes and are very easy to prepare. Sweet balls made of rice, milk, vanilla, flour, eggs, sugar, yeast and rum or sambuca
  • Cenci: The name evokes the shape, similar to a piece of cloth. It is worth tasting them together with a glass of Vin Santo

The traditions of Carnival in Italy

In Italy there are many traditions of Carnival, which vary from region to region and from city to city, but among the most common we have:

  • Parades of allegorical floats: allegorical floats, often built by citizens, usually representing topical issues or political satire.
  • Traditional masks: many Italian cities have unique traditional masks, such as "Arlecchino" in Bergamo, "Pulcinella" in Naples, "Colombina" and "Pantalone" in Venice
  • Masked dances: many Italian cities organize masked dances, where participants wear elaborate costumes and masks and have fun dancing in the street.
  • Carnival sweets: frappe and castagnole in Rome, migliaccio in Naples and many other delicacies in other Italian regions.

When is Carnival 2023 celebrated?

Carnival 2023 is celebrated from 05 February 2023 and ends on Shrove Tuesday, which will be February 21.

The main dates of the celebrations are:

  • 16 February: Shrove Thursday
  • 19 February: Carnival Sunday
  • 21 February: Shrove Tuesday