Imagine you’re walking down a crowded street, in a city with which you may be unfamiliar, shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of thousands of complete strangers. You and your new friends dance in step as music plays at every stretch. As bustling as it is, you don’t mind. There’s a celebratory spirit in the air and an enthusiastic rush engulfs you as you anticipate the unknown.
You slowly make your way to a busy plaza where the crowd opens up and mounds of colorful confetti pours from the sky. The music gets louder and revelers become more spirited. With every step, the most visible are adorned head to toe in full costume complete with the most beautiful masks you’ve ever seen. Vivid with metallic details, extravagant feathers, and shimmering rhinestones, a theatrical moment plays out with each movement. Never rushed, each performer embraces their anonymity and mirrors their new persona, providing a glimpse of story to each audience member.
Just when you think you can’t take your eyes off them, an equally adorned woman far above the sea of people gracefully floats across the skyline softly released from a tall bell tower. As she makes her way across the masses to the center, sprinkling confetti from her pockets along the way, the riveted audience below gasps and cheers at her daring entrance from hundreds of feet in the air.
Welcome to Carnevale.
Last weekend when we were trying out a new dessert recipe and serving it our friends and family on our Veneto handmade dinnerware, we remembered that it’s festival season in Italy. And when we say festival, we mean Carnevale.
As one Italy’s largest winter festivals, Carnevale is typically celebrated the 40 days before Ash Wednesday. This Catholic tradition going back hundreds of years was established so that the faithful could get their fill of overindulgences before the abstinence of meat and other extravagances ensue and the season of Lent begins.
Carnival, Mardi Gras, or Carnevale is celebrated all over the world and during the same stretch of time on the calendar. Whether you throw beads in New Orleans, samba in Rio, or masquerade in Venice, the basis for the celebration is the same.
In modern times, it has become an enormous tourist attraction for Italy, drawing visitors from all over the world to participate in an event that encourages exchanging your day-to-day identity for something much more conspicuous and brilliant. Whether you’re Catholic or not, the idea of dressing up and playing the part of another while hiding behind a mask is pure intoxication. For so many, it has become an annual pilgrimage of sorts as they replace the shackles of the daily grind with something much less prosaic.
See more of our series on Carnevale:
Shake off your Inhibitions, It's Carnevale