Carnival of Acireale

Carnival of Acireale
Photo: carnevaleacireale.com
The city of Acireale is located in on the island of Sicily, Italy, at the foot of Mount Etna, on the coast facing the Ionian Sea. It is famous for its churches and a 16th century fort that has been converted to a nature reserve. Another major tourist attraction is the Carnival of Acireale that dates back to 1594.

The Carnival of Acireale is considered one of the most beautiful carnival celebrations on Sicily. It began in the late 16th century as a spontaneous street party held during the period of Shrovetide, also known as the Pre-Lenten season. Revelers used to throw citrus fruits and rotten eggs at each other until this tradition was banned. In the early 1700s, the Carnival became more refined due to a new addition, “abbatazzi” or folk poets that improvised rhymes on the city streets.

The Carnival began to take its modern shape around 1880, when allegorical floats made of papier-mâché were introduced for the first time. They were made by local artisans. The float-making competition has since become a tradition. Local artisans try to outdo each other every year, helping to make the Acireale Carnival the most beautiful carnival on Sicily.

Masks are another permanent fixture of carnival celebrations in Italy. The tradition of wearing masks during the Carnival season was borrowed from Commedia dell’arte, a form of Italian theater featuring masked characters. Today, most masks that appear at the Carnival of Acireale are of a satirical nature. They are caricatures of famous people such as actors, musicians, politicians, athletes and other celebrities. There are masks portraying fictional characters, too.

Spectacular parades are the main highlight of the Acireale Carnival. They feature extravagant allegorical floats accompanied by marching bands, folk groups, dance groups and costumed characters. Parade participants throw confetti into the crowd and spray spectators with foam. After the Grand Parade, the winner of the float-making competition is announced.

Alongside parades, the program of the Carnival features the introduction of Queen Carnival and her court, exhibitions, dance performances, live music and cabaret, parties, games and contests, and other events and activities for visitors of all ages. People from all over Sicily as well as tourists from other regions of Italy and abroad come to Acireale to enjoy its spectacular Carnival.

Carnival of Acireale

Photo: Mati Armstrong



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