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.
BASSANO DEL GRAPPA
Feb. 10, night float parade departs at 9 p.m. from Largo Parolini; Feb. 11 and Feb. 13 float parade from 2:30 p.m.; live music and entertainment.
CASALE DI SCODOSIA (Padova)
Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, and Feb. 13, 2:30-10 p.m., float parades, live music, Carnival rides, street artists, food booths feature local specialties; music and dancing. Free entrance.
Jan. 28, Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 18, and Feb. 25. This Carnevale has historical origins, as evidenced by a fresco painted by native of Cento, Gian Francesco Barbieri (also known as Guercino) in the year 1615. In 1993 was twinned with the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. The float parades begin in the early afternoon and go through the historic center several times, accompanied by music and dancing. It also includes the launching of inflatable and plush objects during the parade: locals know it as the gettito.
During the last parade, the local mask Tasi is burned at the stake while a fireworks show lights up the sky. Before Tasi is burned, his will is read in the local dialect, in which his possessions are given to Cento's most famous citizens.
Feb. 8, Children's Carnevale in Piazza Pierobon starts at 3:30 p.m.; Feb. 13 float parade departs from Viale della Stazione at 2:30 p.m.; carnival rides; fireworks at 9 p.m.
Jan. 27, from 2 p.m., in Piazza del Granatiere; float parade, music, dancing, sweets and hot tea for everyone; Feb. 11, Children's Carnevale in Piazza I Maggio; Feb. 13, Piazza Milano, Feb. 18, float parade from Piazza Nember to Piazza Manzoni.
Feb. 3, night parade starts at 8:30 p.m.
Feb. 4, 1:30 p.m., Piazza Garibaldi; float parade accompanied by the local folk band and majorettes; games and entertainment with the High Promotion Group; from 11 a.m., food booths featuring Carnevale traditional sweets and mulled wine.
Jan. 28, 2 p.m., children's Carnevale with entertainment and sweets for all children; Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 13, float parades from 2:30 p.m.
Feb. 10, 8 p.m. nightly float parade departs from Piazzale Summano; music and dancing; Feb. 11, 2:30 p.m. float parade, music and dancing; 5:30 p.m. prizes for the best masks. Food booths feature typical Carnevale sweets, hot chocolate and mulled wine; free entrance.
Jan. 27-Feb. 13. This is one of Italy's most beloved carnivals. The first official document with which the Carnival of Venice was declared a public celebration dates back to 1296 -- an edict by the Senate of the "most Serene Republic," making the day before Lent a holiday.
Established by the Venetian oligarchy as a concession to the people, its objective was fun and merrymaking, where the mask dominated as a means to briefly ignore any signs of belonging to social class, gender or religion.
During the two-week celebration, all can watch and take part in the numerous events and displays filling the piazzas and main waterways of the city.
As in the past, private parties and masquerade balls still happen behind the scenes today, inside Venice's grand noble palaces. In these places, where time seems to stand still, guests can jump into this world of ancient splendor, reliving the Carnival tradition of long ago.
One of the most spectacular moments during the Venetian Carnevale is the Flight of the Angel (or Flight of Colombina), on Feb. 4 at noon in Piazza San Marco. This is a tradition that began with a Turkish acrobat in mid-1500s: an artist in flesh and bone hangs from a metal cable, and, suspended in air, makes his descent from the top of St. Mark's Bell Tower to the Doge's Palace. For details visit
Verona Carnevale dates back to 1531, when grain prices rose due to a food shortage. Poor people, especially in the Saint Zeno's area, were facing starvation. A wealthy nobleman, Tommaso Da Vico, donated a large sum for poor people to buy flour and make gnocchi.
Da Vico ordered in his will for gnocchi and wine to be given to the people of Saint Zeno's every year on the last Friday before Lent, now called Venerdì gnocolar (gnocchi's Friday). A parade goes through downtown Verona to Saint Zeno's Church led by Papà de' gnocco (Gnocchi's dad), a costumed man representing an old king holding a large fork topped by a big gnocco, instead of a scepter. The man who wears this costume is elected in Saint Zeno's square a month before the event. Candidates try to buy people's vote by offering gnocchi and wine.
Feb. 9, Venerdì gnocolar, parade departs at 2 p.m. from Corso Porta Nuova and arrives in Piazza San Zeno.
Feb. 10, Historical regatta on the Adige river followed by a parade from Rione Filippini to Piazza Bra.
Feb. 11, from 9 a.m. entertainment in Piazza Brà, which will continue in the afternoon in other downtown locations.
Feb. 12, entertainment and free traditional soup in Santo Stefano district
Feb. 13, entertainment and games start at 2:30 p.m. in Porto San Pancrazio district.
VITTORIO VENETO (Treviso)
Feb. 11, from 2 p.m.; float parade from Via Cavour; music and entertainment.