Italy’s best carnivals

The carnival period starts on the ninth Sunday before Easter. prcatically this means that this weekend you can already run into celebrations, masks, music and happiness. Italians love carnival, they love to dress like crazy, dance , eat and drink, every single village has its own celebration.

Let’s see the most important ones!

Obviously, the most famous, the classiest, the most elegant one is the Carnival of Venice.A huge masquerade ball all over the city’s streets and squares, locals wearing typical Venetian masks. It is incredible.

Venetian Carnival was born in the 13th century , but by the 18th century, Venice’s Carnevale festivities were going downhill. With the Austrian conquest of Venice in 1798, mask-wearing and Carnival were finished and in the 1930s, Mussolini banned the celebrations completely.However, in the 1970’s a group of enthusiastic Venetians decided to restart the tradition and it worked! The carnival attracts about 3 million tourists every year

Classy Venetian masks

The Carnival of Viareggio (Tuscany) was born in 1873, when the city’s wealthiest citizens started marching wearing costumes protesting against the taxes. They got to like this si much that they repeated it every year during the Carnival period using always more spectacular elements. The most important attractions of the Viareggio Carnival are the carri allegorici (allegorical cars) , carnival floats decorated with paper pulp figures depicting politicians, celebrities

The master of puppets (flickr,Giulia)

Famous in all of Italy and, above all abroad is the Carnival in the Piedmontese town of Ivrea (Province of Turin). Established in 1808, the Carnival of Ivrea is one of the oldest and most particular festivals in the world. During the Carnival, the historical reenactment of the people’s rebellion against tyranny takes place: an insurrection that culminates in the spectacular parade of the historic court and the thrilling Battle of the Oranges, it fills the city with fantastic colors and perfumes, and brings everyone into the act! It is the Battle of the Oranges that reevokes the civil war that broke out between the people of Ivrea and the Royal Napoleonic Troops the day after the murder of hated tyrant Raineri di Biandrat. The battle is made up of squads of aranceri or orange throwers on foot (representing the people) and defending their piazzas from those throwing the oranges (that represent arrows) from carts (representing the Napoleonic troops).Then, the traditional procession through Ivrea’s streets includes floats, folkloristic and musical groups that come from all of Italy and all of Europe.

Battle of oranges in Ivrea

Sardini has itw own carnival traditions, too. During the Carnival in Mamoiada,the streets of this city are traversed by a picturesque procession, composed by two typical masks: the Mamuthones and the Issohadores. The mask of Mamuthone  is totally black, with black sheepskins to cover the body of the person and a long string of cowbells tied on his back. Instead the mask of Issohadore is white, with black berritta (the traditional Sardinian cap), red bodice, wide trousers and leather boots.

On the occasion of the Carnival in Mamoiada, these two masks parade through the city: the Mamuthones are divided into two parallel rows of six people, while the eight Issohadores “guide” the Mamuthones as if they were a sort of herd.

These two groups move in unison, as during a dance. The steps of the Mamuthones are slow, heavy and they have to shake the cowbells tied on their backs at the same time; instead Issohadores are much more free and agile.

And during the procession, launching sa soha (“lasso” in Sardinian language) the Issohadore catches and gently pulls towards himself the young women of the crowd, a sign of good luck and fertility.

Mamuthones (flickr, GG)

In case you want to visit the most famous carnival of Southern Italy, you will need to go to Puglia to take part in the events of the celebrations of Putignano.We love Puglia anyway, the carnival is just an extra reason to travel there. Putignano’s celebrations started in 1394 when the Knights of Malta (governors of the zone at the time), brought the relics of St. Stephen into the hinterland from their original site of preservation, St. Stephen’s Abbey in Monopoli. In order to protect the Saint’s remains from the Saracens, they were transferred to Putignano. Upon the relics’ arrival, the peasants, who were involved in planting vines, abandoned their vineyards to follow the procession. And once the religious ceremony had concluded, the people celebrated with festive song and dance.
As with all the Carnivals, the town explodes with masks and papier-mache floats that parade the city streets in all their colorful magnificence.

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