Carnevale in Italy is a celebration that lasts the entire duration of the weeks leading up to Lent. Since even the nominally Catholic in Italy generally give up something for Lent the last hurrah celebrations that Carnevale epitomizes are amazing here. Any of the “vices” that are likely to be sacrificed for Lent are practiced in abundance until the sun rises on Ash Wednesday.
Whether your vice of choice is wine, cheese, meat, cookies, chocolate or just creating general mayhem, you will be surrounded by fellow “villians” at every turn. What a fabulous way to lead up to a fast of any type. There are parties for three weeks in most places, with the final Saturday and Sunday being the biggest. (People still have to go to work on Ash Wednesday so Fat Tuesday is usually semi-tame.
In my opinion the two best places to attend Carnevale are Venice and Viareggio, even though other cities have celebrations, these two stand out. Most people are familiar with Venice’s reputation as a fantastic place to spend these weeks, the centuries of masked balls, the gorgeous Venetian Carnevale masks and the deliciously wicked and decadent parties are well known. But if you are traveling and do not have an invite to a private party it’s a little like window shopping with an empty wallet. If you do have an invite for a ball or party, by all means deck yourself out as amazingly as possible and get ready for a party that will satiate all five senses.
If you are traveling and won’t be arriving in time to secure an invitation in Venice, head to Tuscany and make sure to book a hotel room in Viareggio. The trains stop too early to enjoy the festivities and you do not want to be driving those roads at that time. The parade that is put on on the weekends is unmissable…read up on a little Italian politics before coming and watch the way they skewer their politicians in paper mache. Eat up everything the street vendors and restaurants have to offer and then head to the discos that are towards the northern end of the city…and don’t plan on sleeping until sunrise.