For those traveling in Italy in the spring, Carnevale is the main event in many cities and is not to be missed. Celebrated across Italy, the celebration is similar to Halloween, for those Americans striving to draw a comparison. And yet, as with many things in Italy, the Italians take the celebration one step further and make it a day of worldwide renown. Carnevale is notable in many Italian towns, though if you have the opportunity to travel, you should hit as many as possible.
Venice is the main city that comes to mind when one thinks of Carnevale and for good reason—the celebration does not stop. The celebrations last almost an entire month, from February 15 to March 4. This year the Carnevale’s theme draws from fantasy and fairy tales. The main piazzas of the city will be crammed with locals and tourists alike, watching the plays and throwing confetti at one another. Still, for the tourist who has never truly seen Venice, you merely have to step a few streets away and the entire celebration falls behind you as you seem to step back in time. Events can change from day to day, and the city maintains a website so that you can get a general idea of what events are happening day to day.
Carnevale in Viareggio, closer to Florence in Tuscany, also has quite notable Carnevale celebrations. The event dates back to 1873 and is known primarily for its papier-mache floats which stun the town in a parade annually. Running from February 16-23 as well as on March 2, 4 and 9, the Carnivale is a favorite of Tuscans who do not want to travel further afield to celebrate. The parade typically happens around three o’clock in the afternoon, though more information can be found on the seaside town’s website.
In Ivrea in Piedmont, a different kind of traditional Carnevale takes place. A parade is the norm, but then instead of throwing confetti, residents begin to pelt each other with oranges. The orange battles take place on the Sunday through Tuesday of Carnevale, and the city finishes off the celebration with the burning of the scarli, tall poles covered with dry bushes.
Almost every Italian town has their own way of celebrating, and a simple internet search can help you find something festive close to wherever you may be during the month. It might be something as simple as masks or confetti, but you never know when you will run across an unusual Italian tradition!
If you fancy staying a little closer to home (or your tourism base) here in Florence, there is no shortage of fun as well! Though the celebrations here might not be as well renowned as those in other Italian towns, Florentines still know how to throw a party. Make sure wherever you are going to get a mask, from the San Lorenzo market or elsewhere, and pick up some confetti to add more to the streets. It is easily available at most euro stores. Specific Florence events will be announced closer to the date, but in the past have included flag throwers, confetti wars and even the burning of a mannequin and the subsequent disposal of its ashes in the Arno. You can’t get more festive than that!