Carnevale in Emilia-Romagna… and Parma ham!

It’s Carnevale time!

A fantastic winter festival with elaborate costumes, masks, parades, music and partying that ends when Lent begins.  It has been celebrated all over Italy since the 1200s.  The most famous one takes place in Venice, but many other cities have equally fascinating and unique events.

Carnevale masks and coriandoli

Viareggio, located on the Tuscan coast, has one of the largest Carnevale celebrations with amusing parades that are known for their huge paper mâché caricatures of politicians and animals that get more elaborate each year.

One of the most beautiful carnivals in Sicily can be seen in Acireale, where the parades take place in the Baroque historical centre of the city.  Paper mâché floats with characters and flowers delight everyone during the festivities.

The region of Puglia has numerous Carnival celebrations, more than the other Italian regions.  The most famous one is the Carnevale of Putignano.  It is quite long, beginning just after Christmas and ending on Mardi Gras. 

Carnival Putignano, Puglia
Carnival float

Have you ever heard of the fascinating carnival celebrations that take place in the region Emilia Romagna?

The Carnival of Cento, which is not far from Bologna, is one of the most prestigious.  It dates back to the 1600s and it is depicted in the frescoes of the native painter Guercino. Floats, papier-maché masks, people in costume and music brighten the event, but the launch of the gettito (inflatable figures and sweets) to the passersby is the most entertaining part of the carnival.  The celebrations end with a spectacular firework show.

The Renaissance Carnival of Ferrara, instead, offers a unique trip back into the15th century.  People in historical costumes dress as the members of the famous Este family and walk through the picturesque streets that are decorated with floral drapes. Flag wavers and jugglers add to the festivities.

While in the region, a stop in Parma, city of cheese, ham and so much more, is truly a must! It is famous for its food and rich gastronomical tradition, above all its Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the Prosciutto di Parma ham. These products are protected by their respective production consortiums which certify their quality and origin. Some of its most famous pasta dishes are the tortelli d’erbetta, the anolini in brodo, the soufflè di Parmigiano, the risotto alla parmigiana and the tagliatelle al Prosciutto di Parma.

Parmigiano Reggiano
Prosciutto di Parma (by

The most popular wine produced in this region is the Lambrusco, a dark red wine moderately low in alcohol.

There is so much to see and learn.  During the Middle Ages, Parma became an important stop for the pilgrims who were travelling to Rome on the Via Francigena, the main road that connected Rome to the cities and towns of northern Europe. One of the most interesting monuments to see is the romanesque 12th century Cathedral  where frescoe masterpiece by Correggio can be admired.  An important stop to be made on the outskirts of Parma is the renowned Certosa di Parma that was a Carthusian monastery at the time of Stendhal’s novel ‘The Charterhouse of Parma’.  For music lovers, visit the Museum House of Arturo Toscanini, where the famous musician was born. Parma is also the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world.

Make sure you put Parma and Emilia Romagna on your itinerary next time you travel to Italy! 🙂

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