The History of Rome Carnival - the Roman Carnival began in the Middle Ages and reached its height after the election of Pope Paul III, and, after the transfer of the Papal Residence at Palazzo Venezia, most of the carnival celebrations woud take place in the Historical Centre on Via Lata (now known as Via del Corso).
The Commedia dell'arte, mask parades, games in the main squares, carnival floats, jousting & tournaments, the highly anticipated Berber horse races and the “moccoletti” attracted the entire city's inhabitants, and pilgrims and curious folk from around the known world (at that time such far flung places as Australia were only just being discovered). With the arrival of the House of Savoy in Rome in 1870, the Carnival began to decline, especially because of the many incidents that occurred during the games and the many people who were injured.
The Carnival of Rome took place in Piazza Navona, where recreational performances and fireworks were organised. Piazza del Popolo was the starting point of the most important event of the Carnival: the Berber horse races which ran along Via del Corso and ended at Piazza Venezia.
Today events are a little different, usually with an opening parade in Piazza del Popolo passing through Via Ripetta and Via del Corso, a stage with various perfomers and street artists in Piazza Navona, a Renaissance equestrian show in costume and Baroque fireworks in Piazza del Popolo.
This years' programme has not been issued yet by the local council so we are unable to be specific.
CARNIVALS AROUND LAZIO
We have picked out the largest and most creative carnivals from around the Lazio region.
We expect the carnivals to run from 27th February util 4th March. Rome carnival usually runs for 10 days but official dates have not been issued yet - we will update here as soon as/if we get them.
RONCIGLIONE - VITERBO
Carnival of Ronciglione - 27 February - 4 March
At the foot of the Cimini Mountains, in the heart of Tuscia, is a village full of surprises, among the oldest and most famous of Italy, with origins dating back to the Roman Carnival. Following centuries of the carnival being forbidden, Rociglione reintroduced it in the Renaissance-Baroque period (16th & 17th centuries) and has continued ever since, right up to present day. Masked groups, floats, the town band, majorettes, hussars and the cavalry color and enliven the streetscape of Ronciglione.
ACQUAPENDENTE - VITERBO
Carnevale di Acquapendente - 27 February - 4 March
Parades of floats and masked groups are held during the last two Sundays of carnival, and after the last parade of Mardi Gras is the burning of Carnevalaccio. At sunset everyone meets in the main square for the burning of the effigy, which represents the Carnival spirit; a pagan custom symbolising purification, leading us - through fire - to the period of Lent.
CIVITA CASTELLANA - VITERBO
Carnevale Civitonico - 27 Feb, 2 Mar, 4 Mar.
Parade of floats and masked groups celebrate the Mardi Gras and the burning of the famous "Puccio" the great paper mache totem representing "Carnival King" with music, dancing and bedlam performed by costumed and masked figures. The Carnival of Civita Castellana is rooted in the ancient past, dating back to the pre-Roman Faliscan civilization.
CANEPINA - VITERBO
Carnevale Canepinese - 27 Feb, 2 Mar, 4 Mar.
Parade of floats pass through the streets of the town, arriving at Piazzale I Maggio where a totem of King Carnival "O puppet" will be burned.
SUTRI - ROMA
Antico Carnevale Sutrino - 27 Feb & 4 Mar.
For five days there are alternating parades, games and dancing in the square as well as masquerades and dances until the conclusion of the festivities on the evening of Shrove Tuesday with the extraordinary spectacle of the burning of King Carnival. A long procession of masks and screaming crowd accompanies Carnival King lying on a bier in the last joyful journey that ends in the town square, where he is burned. Around the bonfire crowd indulges in frenetic dancing to the sound of hypnotic wild music.
LATINA - various towns
Il Carnevale Pontino - 27 Feb - 4 Mar (divided between the towns below)
The Pontine Carnival is held in agreement between the towns of Sabaudia, Pontinia, San Felice Circeo and Terracina. The event represents a moment of strong aggregation of the towns ensuring the conservation of good, healthy folk traditions. Parade floats pass through towns and villages of the whole district.
AMATRICE - RIETI
Carnevale Amatriciano Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras) - 1 Mar & 4 Mar.
Allegorical floats and masked groups parade throught the colourful streets of Amatrice accompanied by local sweets and music.
The "radeca" or agave festival takes place during 'carnival time in Frosinone, and was originally an ancient pagan fertility festival - the agave leaf (due to its shape and size) was a symbol for the male reproductive parts, but the festival morphed into a more important celebration of the heroic revolt by the city’s inhabitants against the French occupation in 1798 - 1799. A protagonist of the episode was the famous French general Jean Antoine Étienne Vachier, known as Championnet.
In the photos (pictured) is a puppet of the French General and his likeness in a painting (taken from Wikipedia).
A previous French General - a horrible man, called Giraban - took awful revenge on local rebels after this initial rebellion by sacking the city, killing innocents and wreaking havoc damaging buildings and churches.
The following year, despite these despicable acts, the locals of Frosinone still felt they wanted to celebrate their Radeca Carnival, but (as a bit of a joke) sent out a message to the newly posted general (Campionnet) that they were organising another revolt. Champoinnet, who was based in Anagni, gathered his troops and set off for Frosinone but when he arrived, instead of finding angry pesants ready for a battle, he found them enjoying their festival. He was both shocked and amused, but mostly amused, and threw himself whole-heartedly into the festivities. He and his soldiers got wonderfully drunk and had a jolly time and it is this day in history that the Radeca reproduces: the arrival of the General in his coach, and ensuing revelries!
This unusual and unique festival takes place on Shrove Tuesday which, this year, falls on 27th Feb.
The merry procession is preceded by a wagon carrying a barrel of wine. Just after that the groups of "radicari" (agave leaf holders), arrive, who are the heart of the parade, followed by a representative of the municipal administration carrying the city standard. Then comes the band, uninterruptedly playing the Carnival song, and finally a wagon drawn by four horses bearing the “rubicund” (ruddy-faced) General Championnet holding his huge belly with one hand and waving to the crowd with the other. Each year a new 'General' is chosen from among the locals.
Most of the participants wave the "radeca" (agave leaf), and some raise up a cauliflower (pantanari), an ancient sign of the peasantry. Bearing these “weapons” they dance to a song that starts out slowly, recalling the injustices suffered and the oppression of the people, which then speeds up in the merrier second part to celebrate the recovery of freedoms. In this more lively phase, the agave-holders and the cauliflower-holders burst into a wild hopping dance, forming various circles, and crying out together: "esseglie', esseglie', esseglie'!" which - in local dialect - means 'he's coming' or 'he's here'.
During the parade, certain rules must be adhered to: they must have an agave leaf, otherwise the violator has to bend over and undergo a certain number of agave-strokes (a whipping). At your first ever Radeca festival you must undergo an initiation which consistes of a light whipping on your shoulders - but only in fun!
If you read our entry on FROSINONE you will see how ill-fated this city seems - having been the target of many attacks through the centuries and having suffered several major earthquakes.
Groups, including Roman Legions, Barbarians, Gauls, etc...travel from all over the world to take part in processions, battle reenactments, gladiatorial combat and artistic historical interpretations throughout this unique day.
In all there are approximately 2000 participants from circa 53 associations in attendance. The event is free of charge and takes place in Circus Maximus and in the area around the Coliseum.
The event is organised by the Gruppo Storico Romano, who have been amazing at co-ordinating the event for the past 11 years, together with co-operation from the local council (Comune di Roma).
Here are a few photos to whet your appetite ready for the next one.....starting inside the arena at Circus Maximus, processions from there to Coliseum and finally back to Circus Maximus for combat and other performances....