The Best Places to Celebrate Carnevale in Italy
We all have that image in our minds, fostered by popular culture, of a beautiful woman standing in the dark, skin lit up by candles, her eyes glimmering behind an ornate mask that gives her added mystery. She is laughing at something a man has said, holding a cocktail in one hand and leaning against a balustrade with the other. Then we get a larger view of where she is standing, the balustrade is part of a bridge, a bridge that curves over a canal. Everyone is wearing masks, dressed to the nines, celebrating an old Italian tradition: Carnevale.
How old, exactly, is this tradition? According to popular myth, it began in Venice a thousand years ago, in honor of a military victory. But like many carnival celebrations around the world (for example, Mardi Gras) it centers around Easter, and is a celebration of the more wild and debaucherous side of life just before the Catholic observance of Lent, when the ritual of fasting begins.
In this list, you’ll learn about the best cities to visit during Carnival. Rome, unfortunately, doesn’t have the best Carnevale scene, but there are plenty of other places that do. Read on, learn which tradition suits you best, and book a train and buy tickets for events to your party place of choice!
Venice27 January – 13 February 2024
Venice is the first place we think of when we think of Carnevale. Situated in the northeast of Italy, this dreamlike city is made up of 117 islands that are connected by bridges that cross canals. The effect? Moonlight reflecting on the water. Fog rising in the night that gives the streetlights halos. Slip on your mask and into a gown, attend a grand ball, and walk through the ornate streets at night, carousing with strangers and friends.
Read more: romeing.it/get-out-of-town-venice
In detail: carnevale.venezia.it
Viareggio3, 8, 11, 13, 18, 24 February 2024
Viareggio is a colourful seaside town, which means that the Carnival celebrations take place right on its shores. Most famous is the parade of papier-mâché floats; but this is just one of the many activities that take place over the course of a month, including night festivals, fireworks displays and cultural, artistic and gastronomic events.
In detail: viareggio.ilcarnevale.com
Ivrea10 – 14 February 2024
For a historical Carnival experience, head to Ivrea, a town near Turin in northern Italy. Don’t miss the Battle of the Oranges, a historically-themed spectacle depicting the liberation of the town’s people from a tyrant king a thousand years ago. In addition to this spectacle, which any history buff would appreciate, there are historical costumed characters throughout the city and crowds wearing Phrygian caps, representing freedom. Other events are children’s parties and gala balls.
In detail: storicocarnevaleivrea.it
Acireale18 January – 13 February 2024
The city of Acireale hosts what has been voted the most beautiful carnival in Sicily, and there is a reason for this. Acireale boasts one of the oldest carnival traditions on the island, with papier-mâché floats using a combination of lights, flowers and hydraulic systems. If you want to be amazed by endless beauty, not only of the floats but also of the island itself, this is the place to be. Some events: musical performances, street performers (e.g. magicians and acrobats).
In detail: carnevaleacireale.eu
Putignano4, 11, 13, 17 February 2024
In Putignano (Apulia) the celebrations seem never-ending! Four parades, with not only the typical papier-mâché floats but also masked dancers. The different historical social classes are represented in and protagonists of the festivities: clerics, priests, widowers, young savages, married women and married men… at the end of the celebrations, fake priests run around the city shouting ‘Carnival is dead!’. Some events: visits to wine cellars, readings of poetic satire, art exhibitions.
In detail: carnevalediputignano.it/
There are endless opportunities for Carnevale in Italy, these being the most famous—but you can also check out celebrations in Milan, Verona, Alto Adige, Fano, and Sciacca. Italy is the place to be for Carnevale—so get out and party!