The Carnival holiday goes back to the traditions of the Dionysian Greek and Roman Saturnalia (the festivals sacred to Dionysus and Saturn) with which people greeted the transition from winter to spring.
For a short time, it was the overthrow of the established order. During the festivals sacred to Saturn for seven days the slaves became masters and masters became slaves; a King’s of the Feast was also elected by the people to be in charge of the games in the squares and the shows of gladiators. Carnival’s theme of the “overthrow”, in which everything was permissible, remained in the spirit of the feast all over the centuries. Carnival, in fact, is considered a time in which there is absolute freedom and every joke becomes licit.
This permitted overthrow was a stratagem to give the illusion to the humble people of being similar to the powerful ones and therefore to restrain tensions. In fact, the masquerade itself is a way to get rid of the social role, escape the routine and the chance to become someone else.
The name Carnival derives from Latin carnem levare which means “to remove flesh”, so Christianity took then possession of this pagan festival converting its precepts; it became the last days of revelry before Lent.
The carnival tradition in Florence and Tuscany is ancient and important, for example in the times of Lorenzo de Medici the Carnasciale was a monumental celebration, where floats paraded called Trionfi (“Triumphs”) were accompanied by very popular ballads and songs for dancing. An example is the famous poem Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne written by Lorenzo the Magnificent himself.
From 1873 onwards, the city of Viareggio, in the province of Lucca (on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea), is recognized for the arrangement of one of the most impressive Carnivals in Europe.
Furthermore another important element of Carnival celebrations are the masks, in particular those of the traditional Commedia dell’Arte (a characteristic form of theatre dating back to the 16th Century): probably you have also heard of Harlequin, Pulcinella, for example, and the correspondent mask for Florence is the lanky Stenterello, created by Luigi Del Buono.
So prepare your jokes and confetti and get ready to enjoy Carnival in Florence until the 4th March (the Mardi Gras)!
Below, the list of the events in town…
I Trionfi di Carnevale alle Cascine
Saturday 7th, Sunday 8th, Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 February from 15 onwards)
The event will start right from the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II and will extend along the Arno, in the park of Cascine, but also in the structures of Fosso Bandito and Sferisterio. The afternoon will be full of attractions such as: laboratories of recycling, music, children’s theatre (led by the company of the Cestello Theatre), face painting, luna park attractions, the performance of athletes Circus En Piste and performances by street artists…
Especially on Sundays 8th and 15th February from 3:00 pm in Piazza Vittorio Veneto and in Market Square with a parade of the floats and cartoon characters, children’s activities and the competition between the masks for children and adults, demonstration of Latin dance, Zumba, the magic show and giant bubbles (on the 8th) and the concert by the local music band of Sesto Fiorentino (on the 15th).
The carnival of Florence in Piazza Ognissanti
Saturday, 9th February from 2:00pm to 6:00pm parade of masks, flag wavers, animation.
Departure of the parade of the masks at 2:30pm from Via del Curtatone to Piazza Goldoni and return to the Ognissanti square. At 3:15pm: animations and the show of the Sbandieratori della Signoria (the typical flag wavers) and carnival groups of Italians and foreigners. As per Florentine habit the Stenterello figuere will then be burnt while scattering the ashes in the Arno. Closing at 6:00pm.
Carnival of Viareggio
It starts on Saturday 31st January with the traditional Opening Ceremony, where the mask of Burlamacco takes possession of the city, including music, flag throwers and the dance performance by Francesco Mariottini.
The parades will be held as usual on the four following Sundays.
Also on Saturday 28th February from 6:30pm, after the proclamation of the winning carnival float at night. Please check the official website for more detailed info (http://viareggio.ilcarnevale.com/). Entry: Euro 15,00.
Are you also interested in traditional Florentine Carnival pastries and desserts? Stay update and check our post here : (https://loveflorenceitaly.com/i-love/carnival-typical-pastries/).
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