February marks the beginning of the carnival season in many Italian cities. But which city offers the best events?
The Carnival in Venice is one of the most beautiful carnivals in the world, a spectacular tourist event offering a unique atmosphere and unusual masks.
The festival began in 1162, in celebration of Venice’s victory over Aquileia. In a city with such a rigid social system, Carnival provided an outlet and release as the costumes and masks guaranteed anonimity allowing citizens to mock authority. For some weeks of the year, anyone could be who they wanted to be!
Masks were made with simple materials such as clay and paper mache.
When Napoleon invaded Venice, the Carnival was banned for fear of the citizens conspiring against the French troops. The festival was not to come back officially until the Italian government decided to promote the Venetian culture and history in 1979.
"Carnevale" is celebrated 40 days before Easter, just before the start of Lent. In fact, the word "Carnevale" comes from the Latin words "carne" and "vale" meaning "farewell to meat".
The 2019 Venice Carnival will be held between February 19th and March 5th.
Between the 19th and 20th centuries in the island of Sardinia there were as many as 400 different traditional costumes. Nearly every village had its own typical outfit, which was worn with pride as this was part of people’s local heritage and also reflected people’s place in society. Although individual costumes varied greatly, they had certain features in common: women wore a veil, a shawl, long pleated skirts and embroidered blouses, whilst men wore a knit wool cap with a long tail, a close-fitted jacket and loose white trousers. Traditional Sardinian garb is extremely colourful and features elaborate embroidery. Embroidery is still a thriving craft that is evident in the beautiful traditional shawls boasting different flower patterns.
These days, Sardinian traditional clothes are worn during folk festivals and major religious holidays but you can admire them all year round in the many ethnographic museums.
Things you should know before you drive in Italy.
• Drive on the right side!
• Pay attention when overtaking, which will be on the left.
• When driving in Italy you need to carry a valid driving licence, proof of insurance and proof of ID.
• Do not drive in an area with a sign that says ZONA A TRAFFICO LIMITATO (ZTL) or AREA PEDONALE, limited traffic or pedestrian zones, you'll get a fine!
• When driving on Italian motorways (autostrade), you need to pay a fee. You must take a ticket ("biglietto") when you enter and pay when you exit. When you exit you must pay either by cash or card, DO NOT go into the Telepass lane.
Motorways in Italy are indicated by green signs. Italy's "autostrade" have a standard speed limit of 130 Km/h (81 mph) for cars. the further left you are the faster you should go.
• Filling the car at the petrol station is fairly simple, the pumps are often self service ("fai da te"). NOTE that since Italy has a PIN credit card system, you can only use your credit card if it has a PIN. If not you should use a debit card.
Don't forget! "Benzina" stands for unleaded petrol and "Gasolio" is diesel.
• Be confident, keep up with the traffic and stay alert!