A highlight of travel to Italy in the first quarter of the year is Carnival Season or as they say Carnevale. Celebrations are held roughly 40 days before Easter which falls on March 31st this year.
The biggest, most elaborate Carnevale celebration always takes place in Venice, and if you hurry you may still have time to find accommodations there. If not, celebrating Carnevale in Tuscany’s Mediterranean coastal town of Viareggio (about 70 miles west of Florence) is a great Plan B.
Carnevale di Viareggio parades will be held on Febraury 5, 12, 18, 26 and 28. This resort town goes all out for this annual carnival season with parades along its beachfront promenade featuring papier-mache floats similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Costumed revelers, concerts and masked balls highlight the season when the town’s population of 64,000 swells by an additional 800,000 or so from those dropping by for Carnevale.
As the main resort town in this northern Tuscan Riviera, Viareggio is ready for fun all year round, but pulls out all the stops for Carnevale, which it has been celebrating annually since 1873. Over the years its festivities have come to rival those of Venice and surpass those of other places in Italy.
Accomodations in Viareggio include a number of choices in just over to just under $100 per night. The Hotel Tirrenia, Hotel Katy, and the Best Western Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte are all popular choices. One of the most popular restaurants is the Ristorante Gli Amici del Gusto, which only serves fish and only seats 35, so reservations are needed
Viareggio is conveniently located on the train line that runs along the coast between Rome and Genoa. It’s just off the A12 autostrada that runs along the coast from the French border. The closest airport is the Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa about 15 miles away. You could also fly into Florence’s Peretola Airport or Genoa’s Christoforo Colombo Airport. If you have extra time to travel you may even find your best fares from LAX to Rome and then take the train to Viareggio.
If the Carnival in Viareggio or Venice both seem a little overwhelming or maybe a little too conventional for a regular carnival reveler, try the celebration in Ivrea about 40 miles north of Turin in Italy’s Piedmont Region. Although Ivrea has a notable carnival parade, the main event is an orange-throwing battle that lasts for three or four days and traces back to Medieval times.
This puts a whole new perspective on the Mardi Gras shout of “Throw me something, Mister.” Wearing a red hat is protection from an orange attack, but to have something to talk about for years to come just take off the hat and get ready for the oranges to fly. Flights from LAX into Turin are around $469 to $499 and up each way.
Verona Carnevale is one of the oldest in Italy, going all the way back to 1615. The Verona parade on Fat Tuesday usually has as many as 500 floats that toss out some 33,000 lbs of candy to onlookers. To combine the the craziness of Carnival, with the romance of Valentine’s Day Verona just may be the ticket. Afterall, it was Shakespeare’s setting for Romeo and Juliet. On cheaptickets.com choose from a number of different airlines with roundtrip rates from LAX to Verona for around $1,000.
If you want to combine a carnival celebration with a full slate of winter sports, visit the Italian Alpine resort town of Livigno. Here Carnival means a procession of downhill skiers and an obstacle race, as well as a traditional street parade.
One thing is for sure, no matter which Italian Carnevale one chooses it will likely become one of the most memorable events of the winter season ahead. Even for those who don’t associate carnival as the period of revelry prior to the Lenten season, it is still a good excuse to be a little more theatrical, a little more mysterious and even a little zany…and to celebrate with like minded people.
Unlike many news organizations, instead of putting up a paywall we have eliminated it – we want to keep our coverage of all things Italian as open as we can for anyone to read and most importantly share our love with you about the Bel Paese. Every contribution we receive from readers like you, big or small, goes directly into funding our mission.
If you’re able to, please support L’Italo American today from as little as $1.