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Revealing the History of Carnevale


Italia. Carnevale Veneziano - Milla D'Onghia

Welcome to Finding La Dolce Vita, your gateway to the enchanting world of Italy! In this article, we embark upon a journey to explore the origins, history, and festivities of Carnevale, a vibrant and centuries-old celebration that captivates the hearts of Italians and visitors alike.


Carnevale has deep roots in Italian history and culture. Its origins of can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, where it was initially introduced as a pagan festival called Sham El-Nessim. This celebration marked the transition from winter to spring, symbolising the expulsion of winter spirits to make way for the return of summer. Centuries later, after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, the Ancient Greeks adopted the festival. The Romans, in turn, borrowed it from the Greeks and named it Bacchanal, in honour of the god Bacchus. The Roman celebration was characterised by abundant wine, dancing, song, and overall extravagant behaviour. During the Middle Ages, the Feast of Fools emerged in Europe, featuring the election of a mock bishop and the inversion of social roles. Participants donned animal masks, women's clothing, sang bawdy songs, and engaged in playful chaos in the streets. Although abolished in the 16th century, the traditions of satire and ridicule persisted in modern carnivals. Over time, the pagan festival evolved into 'Carnevale' with Christian connotations, where 'Carne' signifies meat and 'Vale' means farewell in Latin. This reflects the historical practice of abstaining from meat during the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days leading up to

Easter. Carnevale serves as a last extravagant hurrah before the solemnity of Lent, marked by fasting and reflection. In 18th-century Italy, as people prepared to observe Lent, Carnevale became an occasion for dressing up and having fun, with popular themes drawn from Commedia dell'Arte featuring characters like Pierrot and Harlequin.



Antonio Donghi, Carnevale, 1923, Private Collection

Venice, a city known for its opulent architecture and romantic canals, is renowned for hosting one of the most extravagant Carnevale celebrations in the world. The inception of the Venice Carnival dates back to 1162, commemorating the triumph of the Venetian republic over its adversary, the Patriarch of Aquileia. In jubilation, the residents of Venice congregated in Saint Mark's Square, engaging in festive dances and celebrations to mark their significant victory. Subsequently, this historic triumph has been joyously celebrated in the lively streets of Venice, seamlessly intertwining with the annual Carnevale festivities, reaching its peak during the Renaissance. Elaborate masks, costumes, and grand masquerade balls became synonymous with the Venetian festivities, attracting nobility and revellers from all corners of Europe. The allure of anonymity beneath elaborate disguises allowed the aristocrats, actors, and musicians alike to make merry in secret soirées shrouded in mystery and elegance leaving a legacy that echoes through the annals of Venetian history and the tantalising whispers of those who may have glimpsed its hidden splendour.



Pietro Longhi, Il Ridotto, 1720-1790, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Giandomenico tiepolo, scena di carnevale, o minuetto, 1754-55 ca.


Carnevale is celebrated throughout Italy, with each region adding its own unique flair to the festivities. The celebrations typically begin in January/ February and culminate on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Fat Tuesday or Martedì Grasso, the day before Ash Wednesday.


Colourful parades fill the streets, featuring elaborate floats, costumed characters, and lively music. Traditional Italian sweets, such as chiacchiere (fried dough dusted with powdered sugar) and frittelle (sweet fried dough balls), are indulged in during this time.



One of the most iconic elements of Carnevale is the wearing of masks. Venetian masks, with their intricate designs and vibrant colours, symbolise anonymity and a temporary escape from societal norms. The masks add an air of mystery and allure to the festivities, creating an enchanting atmosphere.


Carnevale in Italy is not just a celebration for locals; it has become a major attraction for international visitors seeking to immerse themselves in the rich cultural tapestry of the country. It's more than just a festival; it's a celebration deeply ingrained in Italy's historical and cultural identity.





For those considering relocating to Italy, the experience of Carnevale is just one of the many cultural treasures waiting to be discovered. At Finding La Dolce Vita, we specialise in providing luxury relocation services for international expats, ensuring a seamless transition into the Italian way of life.


As you explore the possibilities of living in Italy, our expert team can guide you through the intricacies of the relocation process, helping you uncover the magic of Carnevale and other cultural gems that make Italy a unique and enchanting destination.


Buon viaggio!

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