Home Living in Italy People & Events in Italy Roman Carnival

Roman Carnival

258
SHARE
Rome January 6, 2013: street artists perform during the Carnival celebrations in Piazza Navona in Rome.

The History

The Roman Carnival is an ancient tradition whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. It is one of the most famous and popular events celebrated in Italy. Traditionally, Roman carnival consisted of a large public celebration that lasted 8 days, ending the night of Fat Tuesday, the day marking the beginning of Lent.

Rome January 6, 2013: street artists perform during the Carnival celebrations in Piazza Navona in Rome.

Carnival in Rome became a popular celebration during the Rinascimento, when people would come from all over the region to the capital to take part in the events and games. During Carnival, the most famous streets and squares would be filled with spectators captivated by the shows, music, masked processions and stands selling goods.

The first major venue for Carnival in Rome was in Navona Square, where horsemen and knights would compete in different contests such as the throwing of a lance at a spinning wheel (a typical carnival prop) or launching the lance through a ring behind which there was a water balloon that would then burst on the mounted rider. Another typical event at Monte Testaccio was called “la ruzzica de li porci”, which means “run with the pigs”! During this event, pigs were hearded to a cliff-like area where they were forced to jump to their death. At the bottom, the spectators would be waiting to collect the pigs and bring them home for super. Around the mid 400s, the Pope Paolo II ordered the festival be moved to Venice Square (Piazza Venezia), with the intent to bring more acclaim to the pontifical building.

Rome January 6, 2013: street artists perform during the Carnival celebrations in Piazza Navona in Rome.

The Masks of Carnival in Rome

Rugantino: is probably one the most famous Roman characters who has been the protagonist of innumerable theatre shows and productions. Rugantino is a young Roman lay-about, who falls in love with the beautiful Rosetta. She transforms him from a jester to a hero, when he learns what valour and honour is and takes the blame for the death of Rosetta’s terrible husband. In the end, Rugantino dies.
Meo Patacca: The name comes from the word “patacca”, which refers to a soldier’s salary, and was worth 5 carlini (coin of the time). Meo Patacca was an antagonist of arguments and discussion. He represents the provocative and argumentative roman spirit.
Cassandrino: represents the typical good family man and father, who is faithful and naive and is continuously being taken advantage of in business and in love.