Kick off 2015 at an Italian carnival

Carnival time across Italy and many other Europe countries, particularly those with large Roman Catholic populations including Germany and the Netherlands, celebrates the arrival of Lent  – the six week period of abstinence before Easter. So what way to prepare than to party! Here is a quick list of some of the best carnivals across Italy during the gloomy months of January and February.

Party time across Italy at Carnival time

31 January – 17 February

During the world’s most famous masked “open  city “ party, every corner of Venice flourishes with chances to have fun and becomes a multi-coloured series of  shows, parades, masks and much more. St Mark’s Square, the true centre of the party, is transformed into a continuous workshop of colours, masks, music and shows hosting Carnival’s traditional events such as “Flight of the Angel” , “Festa delle Marie” and “La Colombina”. Palaces throughout the city host grand masked balls for those who want to immerse themselves in the Serenissima’s festive history. This year’s edition is dedicated to gourmet food, gastronomy and conviviality in cooperation with Expo Milan 2015.

Viareggio, Tuscany
1, 8, 15, 22 February

The most flamboyant of all the Italian Carnivals, famous for its political satire will hosts the traditional shows of gigantic paper-mache figures on colourful floats. See above dates.
Other events include: big parties, sports events, slang theatre show and food stalls.

Ivrea, Piedmont
1 – 18 February

Traditional sounds of pipe and drum bands open the festival that sees the most spectacular event of the famous Battle of the Oranges (15 & 17 February)  Undoubtedly, this is the most spectacular event of the festivities representing the fight for liberty, the symbol of the Ivrea Carnival.

Castiglion Fibocchi, Arezzo
1 & 8 February

This carnival takes place in Castiglion Fibocchi, a town near Arezzo.  Castiglion Fibocchi is situated along the Roman road called Cassia Vetus, near the mountain of Pratomagno: a charming town dating back to the medieval period, exactly to the XII century. This carnival is an old event, when the participants wear fabulous baroque costumes and artistic paper-pulp masks.  Castiglion Fibocchi carnival has been often considered a rival of the Venice Carnival.

Acireale, Catania
31 January: 1, 8, 12, 14, 15, 16 17 February.

The Carnival of Acireale, is popularly known as the most exciting, beautiful and fun carnival in all of Sicily.  It is one of the most involving and historical festivities of the island.  The parade is held throughout the downtown circuit which includes the main baroque attractions of the city of Acireale.  The largest component of the whole Carnival is the crowd that embodies it, and is left completely free to roam the circuit without being enclosed behind barriers.  Twinned with the Carnival of Viareggio it has a rich programme of events.

Putignano, Puglia
31 January:  8, 15, 17 February

The Carnival of Putignano, a lovely town in Puglia south of Bari, is one of the oldest in Europe and one of the most important in southern Italy. Allegorical floats and masks, masquerades, food and wine will entertain visitors through the streets of the town during the Carnival days. The mascot of the Carnival of Putignano is called ‘Farinella’, named after a local dish made ​​from chickpea and barley flour.

Fano in the Marche Region
1, 8, 15 February

After the Ivrea Carnival, the Fano Carnival is the oldest in Italy, allegorical floats and masks, masquerades, shows and fireworks all form part of it. What makes the Fano Carnival special is the launch of tons of sweets from the floats to the crowds of spectators and the special music accompanying the Carvival, the Arabita music played with musical instruments and various other objects.

Arco, Lake Garda,Trentino
7, 8, 14, 15 February

The colours, costumes, music and merriment: Carnival has always been the favourite festival of children, but in Garda Trentino it is a joy for grownups as well. Rites associated with the reawakening of life, local fairs, food festivals and lots of fun! The Great Carnival takes place in Arco each year. During this famous event, a traditional parade of allegorical floats winds through the streets of the small town. Splendid balls in which the guests are dressed in costumes from the Hapsburg period are held in the rooms of the Casino.

Cento, Emilia-Romagna
1, 8, 15, 22 February & 1 March

The most extravagant Carnival in Europe is twinned with the Brazilian Carnival for the style of its allegorical floats, the beautiful costumes and for the riotous fun. Cento is a town near Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna and it will host many famous guest stars for the world of culture, sport, entertainment as well as beautiful floats in papier-mache’.

Bagolino, near Lake Idro (Brescia)
15, 16, 17 February

The Carnival of Bagolino, a small village near LakeIdro,  is unique in Italy. It is an ancient tradition and it is deeply rooted into the people of Bagolino and Ponte Caffaro. The celebration is characterised by two different, yet inseparable figures: “The Balarì” e “The Mascher”.
The origins of dances and music relating to the Balarì are of the 16th century while the origins of the Mascher seem to be older. The most spectacular aspect of the carnival of Bagolino is represented by the dancers, the Balarì, both for the richly adorned costume and for the melodies and dances. The pagan tradition is celebrated each year during the days preceding Shrove Tuesday.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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