Carnevale, Tuscan Style

Carnival season, the last time to indulge and enjoy liberation before the 40-day period of abstinence preceding Easter.


Carnival season, the last time to indulge and enjoy liberation before the 40-day period of abstinence preceding Easter, known as Lent in the Christian religion, is very well known.  It is a moment to abandon all social structures and give way to fantasy.  For example, you may have flashed for beads at Mardi Gras in New Orleans or indulged in an evening of drink and dance at Belmond’s Copacabana Palace at Carnival in Rio.  And you’ve undoubtedly heard of Venice’s Carnival, where revelers wear ornately designed masks at grand costume balls held in grand palazzos, like the Gritti Palace.  But if you find yourself in Tuscany during the Carnival season, there’s plenty of fun to be had.

Carnevale in Tuscany is one of the oldest in Italy. Near the chianti area, there is Castiglion Fibocchi (called the Carnevale dei Figli di Bocco) which is documented as far back as the 1100s.  

Unlike the bead frenzy of Mardi Gras or the elegant, masked balls of Venice, Tuscan style Carnevale is much more akin to the Halloween festival on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Droves of people come out with paper mache floats poking fun at Italian politicians and adorn themselves in elaborate costumes using double meanings, allegory and symbolism that are judged for creativity, snark, and the ability to communicate their message. Instead of single personalities, it’s more likely you will see group efforts, whether it’s Snow White and her seven dwarves or a bag of M&Ms and all its little candies or an allegorical representation of springtime. While the venetians use their masks to stay anonymous, the Tuscans use them to explore their creativity and play around, to be silly yet adventurous.  

And it’s the second best time of year (first, is Christmas) to find a wide selection of sweets, with many of them unique to Tuscany. Schiacciata Fiorentina is a cake made with “strutto” (lard) that can many times be found sliced open like a sandwich and filled with whipped cream or pastry cream.  Berlingozzo, is a ring-shaped, crunchy, cake with anise flavoring.  And every town across the region seems to have its own version of chiacciere or cenci which are different forms of fried dough covered with sugar.

Carnevale is celebrated all over Tuscany.  The most famous festival that is closest to Villa Ardore’s Tuscan farmhouse is the Carnevale of San Gimignano, only 30-40 minutes away, by car.  San Gimignano is a treasure in its own right, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the beauty of its still intact medieval architecture characterized by ancient towers and an urban layout that makes its charm unique. 

San Gimignano’s Carnevale is marked by its folkloristic approach to Carnevale.  Every Sunday in February its characteristic streets in the center will be invaded with allegorical floats, confetti, masks, theatrical performances, artists and music.

The parades of floats will follow a theme and the most incredible handmade masks will compete in the competition. The Carnevale of San Gimignano is both a big party full of colors and fun and an opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful villages in Italy cloaked in a different atmosphere. 

Guests staying at Villa Ardore will find their luxury accommodation in Tuscany is conveniently located to experience these Carnevale festivals. The Tuscan farmhouse is 30 minutes by car from San Gimignano and 40 minutes by car to Florence.  Add a Carnevale festival to your perfect luxury Italian tour itinerary while staying at Villa Ardore and enjoy some local culture!

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