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Beyond Venice: Seven of Italy's most magical carnivals

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected] • 6 Feb, 2023 Updated Mon 6 Feb 2023 14:34 CEST
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Venice isn't the only Italian city worth visiting during carnival month. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP.

Italy's carnival season brings colour and fun to the grey month of February, and Venice is far from the only place putting on a show.


Transforming the Serenissima into a Rococo wonderland for a packed two weeks, Venice's carnival is rightly renowned as one of the highlights in Italy's cultural calendar.

But when it comes to carnival celebrations, the country's offerings extend far beyond Venice's waters.

READ ALSO: Venice Carnival: What to expect if you’re attending in 2023

From three-day food fights to sky-high floats and masked revelries, here are some of Italy's most spectacular carnivals to look out for.


Putignano - February 12th, 19th, 21st, 25th

Putignano's carnival is one of Europe's oldest, dating back to 1394 when the relics of Saint Stephen were transported to the town to protect them from Saracen raids, and locals downed tools to join the procession and celebrate.

This is also one of the longest-running carnivals in Europe, starting on Boxing Day and traditionally ending on Shrove Tuesday, when a papier-mâché pig is carried through the streets and then burned. Concerts, shows, and various parades all feature.

More information here.

Viareggio - February 12th, 16th, 19th, 21st, 25th

In Viareggio's masked parade, hundreds of colourful papier-mâché floats up to 70 feet high are carried along the Tuscan seafront to music and dancing.

It started out in 1873 as a protest at the upper classes not having to pay taxes and continues to provide political and social commentary today – expect to see papier-mâché caricatures of politicians and celebrities atop the carnival floats.

More information here.

One of Viareggio's 2017 carnival floats.

One of Viareggio's 2017 carnival floats. Photo by Claudio GIOVANNINI / AFP.

Fano - February 12th, 19th

Fano's is the sweetest of all the festivals, as chocolates, sweets and sugared almonds are thrown from the float wagons into the crowds of spectators.

It dates all the way back to 1347, making it one of Italy's oldest carnivals, and is thought to have originated as a celebration of a reconciliation between two warring local families.

If you prefer sweet spectacles to tastes, in the last parade the floats are lit up with luminarie, making them particularly impressive to look at.

More information here.

Ivrea - February 12th, 16th, 18th-21st

Looking for something more exciting than your average parade? In Ivrea, the highlight of the festivities is the annual orange fight – a rather messy way of commemorating the local people's struggle against the city's tyrant and, later, against Napoleonic troops.

READ ALSO: What changes about life in Italy in February 2023

Those on foot represent the townspeople while those on carts play the part of the troops, all throwing oranges at each other. The epic battle lasts three days - this year, the 19th to the 21st - at the end of which awards are bestowed on the winning teams.

More information here.

Members of orange battle teams throw oranges at each other during the traditional "Battle of the Oranges" festival held during the carnival in Ivrea, near Turin, on March 3, 2019.

Members of orange battle teams throw oranges at each other during Ivrea's 2019 "Battle of the Oranges". Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

Acireale - February 11th-21st

Acireale’s festivities once involved locals throwing rotten eggs, oranges and lemons at each other in the street - but luckily for 21st century visitors, the custom was banned in 1612.

These days it's a much more respectable affair: as well as papier-mâché caricatures of public figures, you can expect to see elaborate flower and light displays.


If you miss the February festivities, Acireale's carnival is so popular it usually returns for a few weeks in July and August.

More information here.

Mamoiada - February 11th, 16th, 18th-21st, 25th

This carnival is one of Sardinia's oldest folk festivals, drawing on ancient traditions. Instead of papier-mâché floats, expect to see Mamuthones and Issohadores.

The former parade in groups of 12, dressed in black masks and dark sheep skins; the latter, dressed in red with white masks, lead the Mamuthones with complex dance steps. At a certain point the Issohadores 'catch' onlookers with a rope, who then free themselves by offering food or wine.

Festivities end with feasting on pork and beans, while wine and local sweets are traditionally offered to visitors throughout the carnival.

More information here.

'Mamuthones' join other revellers in Mamoiada's carnival celebrations. Photo by MARIO LAPORTA / AFP.

'Mamuthones' join other revellers in Mamoiada's carnival celebrations. Photo by MARIO LAPORTA / AFP.


Cento - February 12th, 19th, 26th, March 5th

This quiet medieval town in the Emilia Romagna countryside comes to life in February when it puts on its 'Carnival of Europe' festival. Since the early 90s it's been twinned with Rio de Janeiro's carnival, with the winning floats getting to appear in the Rio parade.

Watch out for flying objects – part of Cento's tradition is the gettito, where toys and inflatable objects are thrown from the floats into the crowd. The end of the festival is marked with an unmissable fireworks show.

More information here.



The Local Italy 2023/02/06 14:34

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