LIFE/Carnevale – Second Halloween to an American

carnevale photo by Risa Johnson

This is usually the time when I am sad that the holidays are over and spring feels like an eternity away, especially with Viterbo’s bone-chilling cold nights.

After Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, why should the party have to end?

This year, it didn’t have to.

I had never experienced Carnevale, but this year I got to partake in two in Venezia, Saturday 31 and February 1, then last Sunday night in Ronciglione.

Here were my experiences:


I knew that I needed to take a trip to see the most famous Carnevale, because it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It officially began on Saturday, but I didn’t see many costumes that day because my friend, boyfriend and I chose to go see the surrounding islands of Murano and Burano.

Burano may be my favorite city in Italy I have seen yet. I love color, and that place has no shortage of it. I had a lot of fun dipping into the little shops with glass, lace and masks and even getting to see the shop owners work on their craft right there.

I think that is where a lot of the charm of Venice comes from, that feeling of authenticity; getting to see something made before your eyes. It made me really want to learn how to blow glass someday!

On Sunday was when we really saw all of the action, all the elaborate costumes. Venice was a particular type of beauty that day because San Marc’s Square was flooded. The best view of the city came from the top of the Campanile San Marco; I would tell everyone visiting not to miss that.

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Most people dressed up wore the typical masks and Renaissance outfits. Before going, I did not realize that the types of masks had different meanings. I thought that was fascinating, especially the doctor masks, although I wouldn’t want to stumble across someone wearing one in a dark alley.

The only letdown of Venice was the price, which there is no getting around. Although we did save money shopping at a supermarket for groceries rather than going out to eat, where a simple café can cost 10 euro to sit and drink.

But that’s what Venice is known for, and tourism is its money maker. I think everyone should see it once, but seeing the culture in smaller towns is more interesting to me.

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After seeing the Renaissance garb in Venice, I expected to see more or less the same thing, on a smaller scale, in Ronciglione on Sunday night.

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I was surprised to find that it wasn’t like Venezia’s Carnevale at all, but rather like another Halloween, maybe more American than Italian. And by that I mean that judging from my experience this year, Italians prefer to dress up scary for the holiday while often Americans choose funny or dramatic ones.

While the floats were not extravagant as a Disneyland parade, the sheer number of groups in the festival was impressive to me and I enjoyed the ones synchronized to music. It was obvious that all the people in the show were having a great time and that made it fun to watch, even though I was so cold I felt like my toes were going to freeze off.

I saw things I had not seen yet in Italy. I have seen signs in protest against the mafia and against privatization of schools, but I was surprised to see a float protesting unemployment. I also didn’t expect to see many men cross-dressing in the parade.

My favorite group was the one with the neon lights and robots. The robots cracked me up because they looked very sad, with the arms of their costumes drooping because they had broken.

There was even a dad pushing his baby in a lit-up stroller to go along with the theme. In fact, the kids may have been the best part of the festival, because of their complete and utter excitement, dressed up and throwing their confetti in the faces of friends, their moms or random passersby.

Whether you practice Lent or not, sometimes we all need to sing, dance and throw some confetti.

Risa Johnson  studentessa USAC

Hi everyone, I am a journalism student from Chico, California. I study Italian and journalism at the Università degli Studi della Tuscia. In my free time, I enjoy eating Italian food, creative writing, being outdoors and traveling as much as possible.

Ciao tutti, sono una studentessa di giornalismo di Chico in California. Studio Italiano e giornalismo all’Università degli Studi della Tuscia. Nel mio tempo libero, mi piace mangiare il cibo Italiano, scrivere creative, stare all’aperto e viaggiare per quanto possibile.