Partying at Carnival in Italy
Carnival, taking place late-February / early-March each year all across Catholic nations such as Brazil, Italy and Spain, draws huge crowds and understandably a big pull for travellers. As part of my Spanish A-Level I wrote an essay on the history of Carnival, although at the time I had never experienced it for myself. That was until February 2011.
In the middle of my Third Year Abroad and newly arrived in Modena in Italy to start an internship at Armani, I and my German friend Isabella were lucky enough to be invited to participate in Carnival! Not the mythical Carnival of Venice (which is a city I have never been to), but instead to Monteforte d’Alpone in Veneto, where an Italian friend of ours, Alberto, lives.
Alberto and I had met while both studying in Córdoba for a semestre just beforehand, and as fate would have it, another friend of ours, Isabella, was travelling around Italy at the time, so we made a perfect tri-national troop for the Carnival. Monteforte d’Alpone is a tiny town in the countryside near Verona. So tiny in fact that it’s completely off the tourist radar.
Alberto is lucky to have grown up in a town that celebrates Carnival in a big way, as the majority of provincial Italian towns don’t put on any kind of show at all. What ensued was a night of pumping music, 80 or so firemen and the odd transvestite thrown in for good measure.
“Participating” in the Carnival turned out, to my delight, to mean being part of one of the floats that proceeded through the town, dancing all the way to the tune of dance and pop music pumped out of some enormous speakers, while topping up our glasses every few minutes with free wine or beer dispensed from two men on the float as it inched through the town. In all there were probably 30 or so separate floats, effectively meaning there were 30 or so clubs-on-wheels, each belting out different music, and each with a different theme. Our float was a very impressive fire engine, so what we all dress up as? Firemen of course! There was a group dance routine to learn (which Isabella and I didn’t quite master) but we soon got down to the business of partying like Italians at Carnival.
With the odd exception, Italians aren’t huge party-goers like perhaps the Brits are, and the girls in particular are prone to drinking much much less than British girls. So when they get this once-a-year chance to go wild, you can tell!
After a few hours of partying through the streets, which are lined with locals watching the festivities and strewing confetti absolutely everywhere, we finally made it to the main square and all headed to a club to finish off the night, and the rest is all a little bit hazy, as I’m sure you can imagine! Amazingly, what we experienced was just the night-time edition and they do the whole thing all over again a few days later in the daytime. Unbelievably the daytime edition is supposed to be even wilder!
That Carnival in Monteforte d’Alpone was one of the most fun, most authentic Italian things I did during my six months living in Modena and a complete one-off – you simply don’t stumble upon those kind of opportunities as a fleeting tourist. A massive thank you to Alberto for such a great evening and if only we celebrated Carnival in England as well!