Mardi Gras in Italy

  • UPDATED Sep 21, 2018
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Mardi Gras is one of the most prominent festivals celebrated in different parts of the world. Mardi Gras meaning Fat Tuesday is also known as Shrove Tuesday. This festival is celebrated in Italy with all the joy and fun. People in all the cities of Italy come together to celebrate Mardi Gras before the fasting of Lenten Season. Mardi Gras in Italy is the biggest festivals in the whole world and Venice is famous for all the festivities and the big Carnival. In Italy, Mardi Gras is associated with carnival, dancing and lots and lots of food. If you wish to get more information about the Mardi Gras festival in Italy, this article will help you. You will find all the things related to the history and the festivities of Mardi Gras in Italy.

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1. The History of Mardi Gras In Italy

Mardi Gras festival finds its roots in the ancient times when the Romans ruled. They were the predecessors of the Italians and started the tradition of this festival to celebrate the winter solstice. Saturn was their god of seed and sowing. They dedicated the Saturnalia festival to Saturn which took place in Mid-December. Another festival was dedicated to Goddess of Plenty named Ophelia. In February “Lupercalia” was held as to celebrate fertility in February and later became Mardi Gras. However, when the Christianity started growing in the country, the Christian leaders outlawed these festivals. Both Saturnalia and Lupercalia became a part of the Easter Celebrations which is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. The Christian has a tradition of Lent fasting which usually begins 40 days before Easter. So, all of the Roman festivals were combined to celebrate Mardi Gras. 

Initially, the festival or the carnival was celebrated only for one day. People celebrated Mardi Gras on Tuesday just before the Ash Wednesday which is also the first day of fasting. The French people added their own culture to the tradition and started dressing up and wearing all kinds of the mask in the carnival. After the 17th century, the festival began being celebrated in the entire world. With time, the celebrations became longer and more, and more activities began being added to it. As we celebrate it now, it is a weeklong festival known as Carnevale in Italy. With its roots in Italy, the festival is now celebrated lavishly in the entire world.

2. How Is Mardi Gras Celebrated?

Mardi Gras is a massive celebration in Italy and is celebrated every year for a week before the Lent Fasting starts. Each year the dates of the festival are different and are decided according to when the Easter Falls. Here are some of the places in Italy where you will see the biggest Mardi Gras Celebrations:

Carnevale In Venice

Venice comes at number 1 when someone mentions Mardi Gras festival in Rome. Venice has the biggest carnival in the whole world which is filled with colorful costumes, specially designed masks and much more. The carnival does not take place at one place, but the entire city has its own way of celebrating. You will be glad to see a lot of dancing, food, costumes and music all around the town. Do not forget to dress up for the occasion if you want to enjoy the festival to the most. 

Carnevale In Rome

Mardi Gras in Rome is celebrated as the Carnival of Magic. You will find magicians, floats, musicians, jugglers and a lot of music. You will also see lots of Italian Masquerade masks and costumes. Do not forget to try the food at various eateries in Rome that light up during the festival. However, be sure to be squished in between crowds of people.

Busseto Mardi Gras Celebration

If you are a fan of costume parades and marching bands, the Carnival of Busseto is a must visit for you. Here you will find many costume parades with floats and dance performances. You will also see many stands of food that serve local foods and wines. The major attraction is the part of the carnival when tons of confetti rains down on the pedestrians in the town.

Sardinia’s Celebration of Mardi Gras

In Sardinia, you can see the Carnival of Maida that is a three-day celebration. During this event, the people from all over village come to the main square and dance in their traditional costumes. You can also enjoy a lot of Sardinian cuisine during this festival.

Mardi Gras in Offida

Dating back to the 1700s, the carnival of Offida is also one of the oldest in the country. Here you will see a lot of ancient traditions being celebrated such as the Ox Hunt where a group of young people dress up and catch a fake ox on the streets. On the night of Fat Tuesday, you can witness the procession of burning sheaves in which the people of the village carry burning sheaves to the main square for a big bonfire.


If you want to look for the most famous Sicilian Carnivals, go to Acireale. You will find big floats that are made of flowers and paper-mache and a massive parade that goes through the streets of the city. In addition to this, there are also a lot of different programs for the visitors to enjoy and participate in. The parade adds a charm to the already beautiful architecture of the city.


Another place to visit during Mardi Gras in Italy is Viareggio. This is a small village that is set by the seaside that has traditions even older than Venice. You will find huge colorful floats with a lot of dressed people that portray modern life and its events. The floats have different themes every year, and it is fun to watch as these artists bring to life some of the most famous personalities from the country. You can also be a part of the food and wine tasting, watch musical comedies and much more.

3.Foods and Drinks

Food and drinks are the major parts of the festival. In the ancient days, people prepared all the festive dishes using all types of fats in their homes to celebrate the Fat Tuesday. This festival was a reason for people to indulge in all kinds of fatty foods because of the 40 days of fasting that was supposed to take place from the next day. In today’s times, the festival has been heavily commercialized, and people celebrate it for about a week. So, you will see all kinds of foods and drinks in the carnival. There are hundreds of stalls that sell all types of food from different cuisines in the world. These are the days when you can have all the fats in the world and not feel sorry about it. 

4. Special Events Associated with Mardi Gras in Italy

Mardi Gras in Italy is the most significant celebration in the entire world. Since the Italians were the discoverers of this festival, some traditions take place in Italy every year. These are some of the most famous Italian Mardi Gras Celebrations.


Since the festival in itself is a big carnival, every city has its own costume parades and celebrations. You will find everything from food to music and dancers dancing around the roads of the city. Venice has the biggest carnival of the whole world and attending it is a one in a lifetime experience. 

Orange Throwing

Orange Throwing is another tradition linked to the Mardi Gras celebration that is done especially in Ivrea, Piedmont. This is an orange throwing battle open for all the people. The program has many events however the battle is the center of them. It is said to be the re-enactment of the battle between the locals against Count Ranieri. As the name suggests, people through apples at each other and indulge in an epic orange throwing fight that is fun for everyone. Participate or stand on the sides to watch; this is one festival you will never forget.


Masks are a big part of the Mardi Gras festival or carnivals. Different kind of masks are designed, and each of them has their own meanings. Masks were initially worn by the people in the ancient times to hide their identity, but now they have become a part of the carnivals. All throughout the carnivals, you will see different types of half face as well as full faced colorful masks that add to the beauty of the carnival.


Feast is a big part of the carnival or the festival of Mardi Gras. There are huge parties organized all throughout the cities, and even restaurants and cafes come up with the special menus for the event. People indulge in all kinds of foods. If you are a food lover, visiting Italy during Mardi Gras will be like a tour to paradise for you.

If you are visiting Italy and especially Venice during the Mardi Gras season, you should definitely take part in the parade and celebrate the festivals as the locals do. It is one time of the year when people only celebrate and make the most out of each day of the festival. Visit Venice if you want to see the biggest parade and carnival in the world and have the best time of your life.