Carnevale in Italy – Facts, History, Costumes, Masks, Video & Photos

Carnevale in Italy – Facts, History, Costumes, Masks, Video & Photos
Carnevale - Venice Italy

Carnevale – Venice Italy – Photos by Alaskan Dude

What is Carnevale in Italy?

Carnevale is the last celebration before lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent has historically been the time before Easter when many Catholics deprive themselves of something they enjoy. The thought is to party until you drop and spend the period of Lent recovering.

Celebrations are held all over Italy from Venice and Milan down to the villages and towns of Sicily. The celebration of Carnevale is the Italian version of Mardi Gras in New Orleans with oranges instead of beads.

Many of the biggest celebrations are on Martedi Grasso or Fat Tuesday.

Carnevale Costumes and Masks

Carnevale-Costumes & Masks – Photo By Alaskan Dude


Carnevale was first celebrated in Venice in 1094 and has been officially sanctioned in that city since 1296. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Carnevale celebrations were popular throughout Europe. Today for two weeks public areas around Venice become the showcase for actors, acrobats and musicians with residents and visitors alike wearing elaborate masks and elegant costumes.

In Rome, Carnevale gained popularity in the 17th century.  Until the 1880’s carnevale was celebrated with a riderless horserace down the Via del Corso. After numerous accidents it was decided this was too dangerous and the city began celebrating in more traditional ways.One of the largest celebrations in Italy is in Viareggio a city on the Ligurean Sea. Carnevale in Viareggio is well-known in Italy with parades being held for the 5 weekends before lent. Viareggio has elaborately decorated floats and people wearing paper mache masks that lampoon politicians and famous people.

In Ivrea, a small town in Piemonte, Carnevale has been around since the 1600’s. The celebrations begin with a masked ball followed later in the week by the Battaglia delle Arance where people throw 400 tons of oranges. The throwing of the oranges is an enactment of an uprising by the people against those in power.  After all the oranges are thrown the various combatants sit down to a feast of codfish and polenta.

Carnevale YouTube Video

The above video helps you see the typical costumes and masks people wear at Carnevale. Some attendees spend a fortune and put incredible thought into their attire. The streets are like one big party filled with people dressed in elaborate costumes.

The photographer got great closeups so you can see the detail. Watch and I am sure you will enjoy. The music is a perfect choice.

Fun Fact

Carnevale in Italy was traditionally a period when roles were reversed – men and women, nobility and commoners. Today the period of Carnevale is a time when people put their daily lives on hold to laugh at themselves, their leaders and their world.

NOTE:  Much thanks to Alaskan Dude for his gorgeous photos from Venice in Flickr.  What incredible talent.

Also, NBB Photography – Lacie Marie Slezak for her video. We know this slideshow was a time consuming labor of love.

Both of your photography skills are amazing.


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