Carnevale is celebrated in Italy and many places around the world 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Easter and it ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

For Christians, Lent is a period when "something is given up," a time when many devout Christians fast and in the case of practicing Catholics, they give up the consumption of meat. For this reason, many believe that the name Carnevale is derived from the Latin carnem levare, literally, the removing of meat.

Nowadays it is a huge winter festival celebrated with parades, masquerade balls, entertainment, music, and parties. Children throw coriandoli (confetti) at each other. Mischief and pranks are also common, hence the saying A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale (anything goes at Carnevale). Carnevale has roots in pagan festivals and traditions and, as it is often the case with traditional festivals, it was adapted to fit into the Catholic rituals.

Masks, maschere, are an important part of the Carnevale festivals and Venice is the best city for traditional masks. These masks are sold year round and can be found in many shops in Venice, ranging from cheap to elaborate and expensive ones. People also wear elaborate costumes for the festival and there are masquerade balls, both private and public.

Each region has its own typical Carnevale pastries: crostoli, chiacchiere, frittelle, struffoli, and galani. All of them have one thing in common: they are fried seasonal treats and they come from the Roman frictilia, deep-fried pastries prepared during ancient spring festivals. In Vicenza and all over Veneto crostoli, frittelle and galani are served in pastry-shops, bakeries and cafés.

This year Carnevale is in February, but celebrations in many parts of Italy start in January.

AREZZO
Jan. 28, Feb. 4, and Feb. 11, float parades start at 3 p.m.; live music; folk dances; circus workshops.

BIENTINA (Pisa)
Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, and Feb. 13; float parades start at 3 p.m. accompanied by local band and folk group.


CASTIGLION FIBOCCHI (Arezzo)
Carnevale dei Figli di Bocco
Bocco's children Carnevale
Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, from 12:30 p.m., in Castiglion Fibocchi (Arezzo); a traditional celebration with participants dressed in costumes and papier-mâché masks; street performers, magic shows, live music, dances, and food booths; parade and fireworks.

FOIANO DELLA CHIANA (Arezzo)
Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 18 and Feb. 25, noon-7 p.m.; this is the 479th edition of the oldest Carnevale in Italy; the four districts of the town compete for the best papier-mâché float; for the first time, there is an area, Carnevalandia, dedicated to children with bounce house, carnival rides, puppets, and Disney parades; entrance fee: €9; free for children shorter than 59 inches; discounts for families and groups.

FOLLONICA (Grosseto)
Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 18, and Feb. 25, from 2:30 p.m. float parades accompanied by the city musical band; entrance fee: €5.

LIVORNO
Jan. 28 Porta a Mare, Piazza Mazzini, masks parade; Feb. 18, papier-mâché float parade; from Jan. 28-Feb. 18, "Carnevale art, between dream and reality" at Palazzo Orlando, Via Gaetano D'Alesio 2, open 3:30-7:30 p.m., free entrance.

ORBETELLO (Grosseto)
Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 13, and Feb. 18; from 2:30 p.m.; float parades; free entry.

ORENTANO -- CASTELFRANCO DI SOTTO (Pisa)
Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 13, and Feb. 18; from 3 p.m.; float parade and entertainment for children; live music, dance shows and face-painting; on Feb. 24, best float award; free entrance.

PIETRASANTA (Lucca)
Feb. 11 and Feb. 18, float parades at 3 p.m.; Feb. 25 at 5 p.m.; live music and entertainment; Feb. 13 children's Carnevale, 3 p.m.

PIOMBINO (Livorno)
Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 13, and Feb. 18, 2:30-7 p.m. floats parade accompanied by live music, shows and entertainment for children.

PONTEDERA (Pisa)
Jan. 21, Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, and Feb. 13; from 2:30-5 p.m.;
float parades, live music and food booths; entrance fee: €3; free for children younger than 14; free entrance on Feb. 13.

PRATO
Carnevale Di Paperino
Donald Duck's Carnevale
Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, and Feb. 13, from 3 p.m.; more than 250 masked entertainers, live music and a cascade of confetti will create a magic Carnevale atmosphere and fun for everyone.

SAN GIMIGNANO (Siena)
Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 18, and Feb. 25, 2:30 -- 7 p.m., float parade, with live music, dancing, confetti and entertainment for children.

SANTA CROCE SULL'ARNO (Pisa)
Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, from 3 p.m., Piazza Matteotti, float parades and entertainment; in case of inclement weather conditions, the float parade will be postponed to Feb. 18.

VIAREGGIO (Lucca)
Jan. 27, 4 p.m., Feb. 4, 3 p.m., Feb. 11, 3 p.m., Feb. 13, 5 p.m., Feb. 17, 5 p.m.. This is considered amongst the most renowned carnival celebration in Europe. It is famous for its parade of floats and masks, usually made of papier-mâché, depicting caricatures of popular people, such as politicians, showmen, and sportsmen.

The first parade was held in 1873, when some wealthy middle-class men decided to organize a parade of floats adorned with flowers; a number of local citizens, as a sign of protest, decided to punt on masks to show their refusal of high taxes they were forced to pay. The first float to win the parade in 1883 was named I Quattro Mori (The Four Moors), representing the homonymous Livorno statue. Fireworks conclude Feb. 15 parade.

VENERI (Pescia, Pistoia)
Jan. 28, Feb. 4, and Feb. 11; from 2:30 p.m.; float parades; juggles, elves and street artists; live music, face-painting and clowns; food booths feature traditional Carnevale pastries; free entrance.

VITOLINI (Vinci, Florence)
Jan. 21, Jan. 28, and Feb. 4, at 2:30 p.m. Children's Carnevale with float parades, live music, dancing, and games. Free entrance.