Carnival in Italy

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The most famous carnivals of Italy are those held in Venice, Viareggio, Ivrea, Cento, Gambettola, Satriano, and Acireale. These carnivals include sophisticate masquerades and parades. A completely different form or Carnival takes place in Sardinia, based on rituals to awaken the earth after Winter, possibly descending from pre-Christian traditions.


The Venetian carnival tradition is most famous for its distinctive masks

The carnival in Venice was first recorded in 1268. The subversive nature of the festival is reflected in the many laws created over the centuries in Italy attempting to restrict celebrations and often banning the wearing of masks.

Masks have always been a central feature of the Venetian carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Day, December 26) at the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday. As masks were also allowed during Ascension and from October 5 to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise. Mask makers (mascareri) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.

In 1797 Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrians took control of the city on January 18, 1798 and it fell into a decline which brought carnival celebrations to a halt for many years. It was not until a modern mask shop was founded in the 1970s that a revival of old traditions began.


Viareggio Carnival 200877, Uer iz de parti?

The Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most famous in Italy: it lasts a month with night and day celebrations, floats, parades, district celebrations, masked dances and other shows. In 2001 the new "Citadel" (Carnival town) was inaugurated: a polyfunctional and a great architectonical value structure that includes new hangars for the creation of the floats, the paper-mâché school and a great arena where, during the summer, "Citadel under the stars" review is held, including shows, concerts and cultural initiatives.


Carnival Parade in Ivrea, Italy: the miller's wife on her float.

The Historic Carnival of Ivrea is mostly known for its Battle of the Oranges, allegory of struggle for freedom. It is valued as one of the most ancient carnivals in the world: during the year 1000 a miller's wife killed the tyrant of the city; from that episode began a civil war between the oppressed people and the king's supporters, finally won by people, and until now every year the citizens remember their liberation with the Battle of the Oranges. Here, teams of "Aranceri" by foot shoot oranges representing ancient arrows and stones against Aranceri on carts, representing the tyrant's allies.

During the French occupation of Italy in the nineteenth century the Carnival of Ivrea was modified by adding representatives of the French army who help the miller's wife.


Parades of allegorical floats and flower floats, into a baroque circuit, are one of the attractions of the Best Carnival in Sicily, a typical carnival night.

The Carnival of Acireale each year attracts visitors from around the world.


One of the most evocative Carnival of Italy is the Carnival of Satriano di Lucania with his three ancestral masks: the lant, bear and hermit. The show takes place in a small town of the historical Lucania geographic area and draws the attention of many press reviews at the international level: on top the italian director Michelangelo Frammartino filmed a greenery-clad hermit for a cine-installation Alberi (Trees) that shows the interdependence between man and nature. It was exhibited in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in 2013.


Mamutone and Issohadore in Mamoiada, Sardinia

In Milan the Carnival lasts four more days, ending on the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, because of the Ambrosian rite; it is thus referred to as Carnevale Ambrosiano ("Ambrosian Carnival").

The carnival in Verona is celebrated with a parade of "carri allegorici" on the "Venerdi Gnocolar", which takes place on the last Friday of Carnival, when people eat traditional potato gnocchi.

Also Putignano is well known because of the Carnival, considered one of the main carnivals in Italy since it is the oldest (dated from 1394) and longest Italian carnival: it starts the day after Christmas and finishes the day before the ash Wednesday.

In South Tyrol the most famous carnival is the Egetmann. Even though this is the most famous, various others enrich local culture and make it the most colourful time in various villages.


Most of the towns of Sardinia have a specific tradition about carnival. Most notable are Mamoiada (where Issocadores and Mamuthones hit the land and dance around fires), Ottana (where Merdules and Boes enact the fight between human and animals, and Filonzana is a derivation of mythological Parcae) and Orotelli (where Thurpos and Eritajos symbolize Good and Evil). Notable is also the parade of Sartiglia in Oristano.