This weekend sees the start of the Carnevale festival in Rome, 10 days of festivities taking place across the city centre before the more serious business of Lent begins. And nowhere does religious festivals better than Italy’s holy city!
While I’m sure many people will already be travelling to the Eternal City this month on romantic Valentine’s breaks, the overlapping Carnevale celebrations are making a trip to Rome seem all the more appealing. Despite being a religious festival of sorts, there’s little that’s stuffy about Carnevale Romano, which involves concerts, art events and horseback parades bringing the ancient city’s wonders to life.
The celebrations kick off with a costumed parade along Via del Corso on Saturday 6 February, which, according to the New York Times, will involve 60 riders and over 100 performers paying homage to the horse races that used to take place here until the 19th century. The festivities will conclude in grand style on Shrove Tuesday, 16 February – better known to festival-goers as Mardi Gras – with a performance from Italian folk singer and musician Angelo Branduardi.
Rome isn’t the only city in Italy that pulls out the stops for Carnevale though, and this year’s festival season will once again see the city twinned with Venice in an artistic exchange. Simply put, this will involve Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera taking their show to Teatro La Fenice and a number of Venetian artists taking part in events at various venues across Rome, helping to bring two of Italy’s cultural capitals together.
Anyone who’s visited Rome before won’t be surprised to learn that the Piazza del Popolo will be host to one of the festival’s major events, with the Village of Culture and Tradition being set up to host debates, meetings and performances between the 11th and 16th. Equestrian fans whose thirst hasn’t already been quenched by the parade will also be able to see a horse riding show being put on in the square on 13 and 14 February, directed by one of Italy’s leading riding instructors.
For centuries, Carnevale celebrations have been the perfect way for many people to enjoy some light relief before committing their willpower to Lent. Of course, Lent isn’t restricted to Christianity, and even if you’re not religious, the period can still be an effective way of deciding to make changes to your life – even if it’s only for 40 days and nights. Are you thinking of giving anything up this year?