Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Party away the winter with carnival

While much of Europe shivers in the winter cold, February means something much more enticing for many Italians – carnival time. Its origins are thought to be a mix of the Roman (where the Saturnia festival celebrated the Julian new year) and the Christian, where it gets its name. The word carnival derives from the Latin ‘carnem levare’  (remove the meat) which much like mardi gras (Fat Tuesday) was traditionally linked to the banquet held the last day before lent.

What started as a religious banquet has evolved into an expression of the artistic and fabulous, embraced by auteurs and party animals alike who dress up, put on a mask and perform in a wide range of costumes and guises, creating an atmosphere that lifts the spirits of all around.

Carnivals take place throughout Italy in February, filling participating streets with music, confetti and fireworks. Masks are traditionally worn to liberate the wearer and hark back to Saturnia when it was believed they scared away evil spirits. If you’re planning a trip to Italy in winter, the lure of carnival season more than makes up for the likelihood of bad weather, especially in Venice, which is prone to flooding in February.