Carnevale in Italy and Nice

Carnevale In Italia

By Whitney Stoker

In light of the recent festivities to kick off the Christian season of Lent, I caught up with Desiree, a U of M student who studied abroad in Bologna last spring. She shared her experiences at the Venetian celebration of Carnevale with me.

Carnevale originated as a celebratory farewell to meat for the Lenten season. Though it has retained its primary meaning as it commences with Martedì Grasso, or Fat Tuesday, it has also added the role of a cultural celebration. Each region in Italy has its own unique festivities. From the “Battle of the Oranges” in Ivrea to the traditional Venetian masks and everything in between, Italians use their regional traditions and build upon them to create a fun atmosphere for the enjoyment of all.

Though Venice and its stunningly ornate masks are what we all think of when imagining Carnevale, Desiree shared an interesting piece of information as to how the festivities have changed over time.

“The traditional masks really aren’t so popular,” Desiree said. “It was a little like Halloween since everyone was dressed up in all different costumes, including a group of rainbow iPods.”

Another variation from the original event was the different forms of entertainment.

“The Beatles cover band that performed in Piazza San Marco! They were really good! And what was great was that the Beatles are so legendary and world renown that the whole crowd was singing and dancing,” she added.

When asked to describe her favorite aspect of Venetian Carnevale, Desiree commented on the atmosphere and collectivity of the celebration:

“I loved the atmosphere, the spontaneity, gaiety and costumes. It was such a unique experience. There were people from all around the world dressed in all sorts of costumes and speaking all languages.”

She also had a few pieces of advice for those wanting to experience Carnevale Italian style.

“Definitely go to Venice. If you really want to know what Carnevale is all about, you have to go to Venice,” Desiree said. “Definitely make it to Piazza San Marco and Rialto. This is one time when I suggest following the crowd. Get into the spirit, dress up!”

For those yearning to experience a fun, exciting, cultural event in Italy, Carnevale in Venice is most definitely a great option. With a wide array of people and various sources of entertainment, it is sure to be a stimulating experience.

Carnaval 2010 à Nice

by Veronica Rosiejka

If you could celebrate Carnival anywhere, wouldn’t you want it to be where it originated? That’s what I did last weekend, February 12-14, in Nice. Carnival (Carnaval in French) actually began in the 13th century, where everyone would have feasts of meat before Lent. These feasts turned into parties and street parties over time, but Carnaval as we know it began in 1873.[1] It’s a pretty long tradition, and they know how to do it right.

Nice is the main city of the Côte d’Azur, between Cannes and Monaco, right on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a metropolis, a famous, attractive vacation spot for people like you and I, as well as the rich and famous. The beach is in the city, just a few blocks from downtown. A perfect place if you want somewhere overlooking the sea. The Promenade des Anglais, a palm tree-lined boulevard splits the beach from the shopping district.

Traveling to Nice from Montpellier is very easy—the train goes along the coast through Marseille, St. Tropez, and Cannes. The ride is only four hours, and very scenic. Even if you fly in, there is an airport right on the beach not far from downtown.

I made it to Nice in time for the opening ceremony Friday night, and there were two parades on Saturday, both of which I saw. The first parade was the Flower Parade: all the floats are covered in flowers, and tons of flowers get thrown to the crowd. The second was the Night Parade, and that was by far the coolest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

To see the Night Parade, we had to either pay 10 Euros to stand (or 25 to sit in the bleachers) or try to stare through a slit in the fence. The slit in the fence is obviously not the ideal parade viewing situation. So, after paying (just 10 Euros), my friends and I made our way to the front of the crowd and watched as people filtered in behind us. Our spots were amazing. They started off right in front, with the floats six inches away from our faces; we got pushed back some, but we were still only two or three feet away.

Music blasted the entire time, making the parade like a party/club/parade all at the same time. Confetti and silly string filled the air, people’s hair and hoods. The parade was a little slow to start, but once it got going, it was incredible.

A description of the floats is rather essential to understand how this was so amazing. The theme of the festival this year is King of the Blue Planet. The mascot floats were the King and Mother Earth. I think here a picture of each is necessary:

I don’t think these pictures do their size and intricacy justice, even though I tried. These were at least four stories tall, and had (several) mechanical parts that moved. These two floats led the parade around the Place Messéna, through the crowd. This Carnaval parade was interactive. By that I mean that the crowd threw confetti and sprayed silly string all over the floats, and the people on the floats did the same to the crowd. I was picking silly string off me every five minutes or so. While the floats went by and stuff flew through the air, the music continued to blast, and very few people just stood to watch. Many people danced to the parade…I being one of them, of course.

All right, so a parade is really just a parade, even if dancing and silly string are included, but what made this such a fantastic parade is the floats, like you would think of course. But not only were the mascot floats super tall (you had to look high up; eye level was the base of the floats) and elaborate; all of the floats were just as elaborate. I think my favorite was the dinosaur. Someone rode in its mouth to control it (whom you can’t see in this picture unfortunately):

It came complete with roaring, flashing eyes, realistic movement, and a smoke machine. Not to mention it was the size of a real dinosaur. Men dressed as cavemen juggled fire around the dino-float.

My second favorite was a bunch of corn cobs with human faces. At first I thought they were really ugly, but the more that passed by, the more I liked them. There were also some interesting trees with funny faces.

I think the weirdest float of the night (and this is saying something because they were all pretty weird) was the giant float of Obama dressed as Superman, holding a tree in his hand. I don’t care what your political beliefs are, it was strange. You would think they would have picked a French leader who was trying to improve the environment, but they picked Obama instead. And to top it off, he looked rather creepy, really.

The weird, yet complex and beautiful floats are what really make Carnaval, I think. That, and its history. Even if you don’t like history, it’s amazing to know you’re participating in something that has been going on for over a hundred years, and even more if you consider the origins of Carnaval.

If you have the chance to go to Carnaval, do it. This is not something you want to pass up. It will be the best time of your life.


[1] Origins and Traditions. < http://www.nicecarnaval.com/en/carnaval/historique/origine.php&gt;. 16 Feb. 2010.

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