My name is Franca Filipik and I’m the current Italian section editor for the UoB Linguist Magazine. I study Italian and Translation and, before the global pandemic, I was studying abroad in Italy. Whilst on my Year Abroad I had lots of opportunities to travel, however one experience that really stands out for me was my trip to the Carnival.
Carnival is a major cultural event in Italy, with the most well-known one being in Venice. It occurs annually in February and involves street parties, parades, shows and dressing up. My friends and I were keen to experience Carnival whilst in Italy. We considered going to the Venice Carnival as it is very traditional and the city is beautiful, but we decided that it would be too packed with tourists to be able to enjoy it to the full. After much research we settled on going to the Carnival in Cento, a small town in Emilia-Romagna, which is in fact paired with the Rio Carnival in Brazil.
Not really knowing what to expect, we caught the bus to Cento and arrived in what appeared to be an empty town. After wandering around for a while we found the entrance to the Carnival where we were told it was 16 euros to get in. As we couldn’t really see or hear anything from the inside of the Carnival we were a bit dubious about paying. We deliberated going to the Carnival in Ferrara, which was close by, but as we had come all the way to Cento we decided that we may as well pay the entry fee and it was a decision we did not regret!
The inside of the Carnival was a stark contrast to the deserted streets outside the barriers. It was bustling with people and music was blaring from speakers. The streets were littered with confetti which was being thrown by children dressed up in their finest Carnival outfits. We had arrived just in time for the float parade which was the highlight of the day. The floats were huge, and actually pretty terrifying. The one that stood out the most was a large baby in striped pyjamas which appeared to be in a gas chamber. For a Carnival full of children this was a bit dark, and we did not really understand how it was relevant in the context we were in, but it seemed to be the showstopper. The rest of the floats were a bit more upbeat, and many had people dressed up and dancing on them which was enjoyable. One even had a DJ booth! The floats were special as people in the town spend the whole year constructing them specifically for this parade, and you can see the hard work and dedication that had gone into them.
Once the floats had finished their parade, they were driven back to where they had come from, and much to our surprise there were people on top of them flinging free gifts into the crowd. What seemed like a fun experience soon turned into a free-for-all, with adult men literally fighting over a fluffy toy turtle. I even got scratched in the chaos. We did come away with a beach lilo and two inflatable donuts though, so I guess we had some success.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Carnival. I would definitely recommend it to anyone on a Year Abroad in Italy as it’s a great way to feel part of the culture.