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Best Italian Festivals January to March

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Italy is one of the most wonderful countries to go and visit. Steeped in history it possesses some of the most glorious architecture in the world to enjoy. It's also a nation of great style and passion and this translates into the extravagant festivals they hold. As if you needed another reason to go, here are the top three festivals you could enjoy in the first three months of 2019.

Carnevale di Viareggio
February 9th - March 5th 2019

For many this is the carnival to beat all carnivals. This spectacular event is held in the beautiful seaside resort of Viareggio not far from Pisa and is definitely one to put on your bucket list. Its origins stem back to 1873 when the local youth wanted to protest against the locally elected officials by mocking them as giant puppets. This tradition has stuck and today it's more of a competition on who can build the best float and is more popular than ever attracting up to 800,000 visitors a year. 

The whole event takes place over a period of a month which includes five street parades. In between the processions there are plenty of things to see and do such as theatre shows, live music and other street entertainment and in the evening celebrations continue in the various bars, restaurant and hotels who take turns to host colourful masked parties. The parades themselves are simply epic. The procession of models are a sight to behold. Made with paper mashe, some of the models can stand up to 20 metres or more and weigh more than 40 tonnes. The inspiration for the models can be anything from animals, clowns, ghosts and even parodies of famous people and politicians. Originally the parade was held in the old town of Via Regia but today the carnival runs along a 2km circuit on the promenade.

One of our suppliers Pellevera are actually based in Pisa so note to oneself, make a detour the next time I visit in February!

Carnevale di Venezia (Venice Carnival)
February 16th - March 5th 2019

On an ordinary day Venice is one of the most breathtaking cities in the world but this two week celebration just takes the city to a whole new level. The residents of the city get in the festive spirit by dressing up in historical costumes and wearing very ornate Venetion masks. This is a tradition that harks back to the eleventh century and has been truly embraced in recent years. Visitors to the city can simply enjoy the spectical or even take part by hiring a costume. There is so much to see and do, including live music, street theatre, jugglers, magicians and masquarade balls you can attend. If you've never been to Venice this is undoubtedly the time to go.

Carnevale di Ivrea (The Battle of the Oranges)
March 2nd - 5th 2019

Ivrea is a charming if somewhat quiet sleepy medieval town situated a few miles north of Turin, that is until the start of March when all hell breaks lose. People travel from far and wide to enjoy or even participate in this exciting spectacle and can attract up to a hundred thousand people. The Carnevale di Ivrea has been born from a culmination of myth and historical facts through the ages. 

This is the oldest festival in Italy and celebrates the uprising of the local peasants who lived under the tyranny of the Marquess of Monferrato who systematically starved the local towns folk. It is said that the rebellion came to a head when the Marquess tried to exercise his right as a lord and attempted to have his way with a local maiden called Violetta, the beautiful daughter of the local miller. In the ensuing struggle she killed her attacker with his own sword and this was the catalyst for the whole town to rise up against this tyranny and persecution.

Unsurprisingly the star of the festivities is a beautiful local girl who has been chosen to play the part of our heroine Violetta. Alongside her in this historical mix of a celebration is a General from the Napoleonic wars who coordinates the proceedings. This reenactment of this ancient battle is played out between nine teams who are positioned throughout the town, representing the towns folk and the feudal army who go through the town in horse drawn carriages. The ensuing battle is fought not with weapons but with oranges. These can be thrown with some gusto so it's not for the faint hearted. However if you would like to participate you can either volunteer to join one of the nine teams or you can be a street spectator in which case you will need to wear a traditional red stocking on your head to show you are not a target. 

There is some mystery as to why oranges are thrown. Some say it represents the head of the Marquess, others think it stems originally from local maidens viewing the festivities from their balconies and dropping oranges onto the local boys to attract their attention who duly started throwing them back. Whatever the reason the spectacle we have today is really very exciting. It's a colourful, noisy and on occasion a little dangerous festival which is celebrated over a 3 day period and for the locals a celebration of their liberty.

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