What is Carnevale, you ask, and how is it celebrated in Italy?

Carnevale is one of Italy’s biggest winter festivals, celebrated in the weeks before Lent.  The final day of Carnevale is Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras in French, meaning ‘Fat Tuesday”), the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  Martedi Grasso, along with the Thursday before, called Giovedi Grasso (Fat Thursday), are the main days of Carnival.

Because the actual date of Easter changes each year, so does the period of celebrations for Carnival, even though Italians begin to celebrate it from the end of January.  In 2018  Martedi Grasso will be on February13.

Italy is the birthplace of Carnival celebrations, having its origins in the ancient Roman cult of Saturnalia, fertility rites to honor the god Saturn. You can still see the ruins of the Temple of Saturn at the Roman Forum in Rome, where they used to hold sacrifices.

Carnevale is celebrated all over Italy, with the major celebrations held in Venice, Viareggio (on the Tuscan coast) and Ivrea (Piedmont region).  

Venice holds the biggest and most elaborate celebrations and is the most famous.  It’s also my favourite!  

Many smaller and larger cities (including Rome) also organise events, costume parties, and parades taking place in the streets, piazzas and restaurants.  Masks, sweets, and having fun are the most important part of Carnevale: it’s a chance to dress up in beautiful masks and costumes and have a great time, and it’s enjoyed by young and old alike!  You’ll see many families competing in elaborate, themed costumes during the Venice Carnival Contest, which we will experience as part of our fabulous tour!

Carnevale 2018 celebrations in Venice will start in early February and continue until February 13th, with official dates announced soon.   During this entire period the city will be filled with people wearing elaborate costumes and masks.  Some public highlights include the gondola and boat parades along the Grand Canalmask parades in Saint Mark’s Square, costume contests, and the big fireworks show on the last day of Carnevale.  There are also several masquerade balls  held in various Palazzos with live music, dancing, and lots of fun!

Come join us during this exciting time in Venice and  experience first-hand the colourful and fantastic world of Carnevale  on our “Rome, Florence, and Venice with Carnevale 2018!” tour!

Let the fun begin!  

  • Each day over 3000 euros are thrown by tourists into Rome’s Trevi Fountain, which is later collected and donated to charity
  • Italy has more than 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other country in the world
  • Italy is home to 3 active volcanoes: Etna, Vesuvius, and Stromboli
  • Vatican City, in Rome, is the world’s smallest country
  • Italy is the world’s largest exporter of wine
  • The use of pasta in Italy can be traced back to the 4th century BC
  • Pizza was invented in Naples and dates back to 1860
  • 14 billion espressos are consumed in Italy each year
  • The first thermometer was made by Italian inventor Santorio Santorio in 1612
  • The first battery was invented in the 1800’s by Italian Alessandro Volta, and the electricity measurement ‘volt’ comes from his last name.
  • Italy is said to have more masterpieces per square mile than any other country in the world
  • In 2007, a dog named Rocco discovered a truffle in Tuscany that weighed 3.3 pounds. It sold at auction for $333,000 (USD), a world record for a truffle.
  • In northern Italy, last names tend to end in “i”, while those from the south often end in “o.” The most common Italian surname is Russo.
  • The first Italian cookbook was written in 1474 by Bartolomeo Sicci
  • Famous Italian explorers include Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, John Cabot, and Amerigo Vespucci
  • Dante Alighieri played an instrumental role in establishing the national language of Italy, however, each region still speaks its own dialect, some of them speaking several
  • Many Shakespeare plays were set in Italy, including Romeo and JulietOthello, and The Merchant of Venice
  • The famous children’s story, Pinocchio, was written in Florence by Italian author Carlo Collodi
  • The first opera ever written was performed in 1597 in Florence in Italy.  It was called “Dafne” and the composer was Jacopo Peri.