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In a “Costume di Carnevale” revelers can take on an entirely different persona from their everyday life.

The Vernacular of Carnevale

Carnevale celebrations are widely popular in Italy and places such as Fano, Putignano and of course, Venice, are known all over the world for the creativity and beauty of their parades. Carnevale creates a unique atmosphere in Italy, complete with its own costumes, traditions and vocabulary. If you decide to visit Italy during this time and take part in one of the many celebrations, it is important to be familiar with some of the words you may hear so you don’t miss out on any of the action. Below are some of the names and phrases you will undoubtedly hear at a Carnevale extravaganza.

Carri di Carnevale are the elaborate floats that parade down the streets of Italian cities during this massive celebration. Creative and often irreverent, the carri have political and social satire as their main topic. Parades of carri are a common sight in villages, towns and cities.

Any Carnevale celebration is sure to have stele filanti and coriandoli falling from up above. Stelle filanti are bright and colorful streamers and coriandoli are the equivalent of confetti, a word that, in Italian, actually means sugared almonds.

Volo dell’angelo or The Flight of the Angel, is an amazing event that takes place in Venice, host city to the best known Carnevale in the world. During the event, a disguised woman wearing a harness, jumps off the Campanile of San Marco and “flies” through the air. This tradition, established as a way to celebrate and honor the Doge of Venice, symbolizes the relevance of Carnevale in this city.

A sea of maschere or masks, fill the streets of every Italian Carnevale city. Revelers wear masks during the celebrations because Carnevale parties revolve around the idea of the masquerade. Dressing up for Carnevale does not only mean wearing a mask, but fully changing your identity for an entire day or night by wearing a costume di Carnevale. A Carnevale costume often consists of a traditional Italian mask and perhaps a fancy outfit, elaborate hat or mysterious cloak.

Martedì grasso is the Italian term for Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, a day that represents the end of seven “fat” or grassi, days. This week of heavy, rich eating is closely tied to religious origins. During this week people would eat exquisite foods prior to the beginning of the holiest time of year, Quaresima or Lent.

Nearly every person at Carnevale will be equipped with a trombetta or party horn, a traditional favorite. Though there are many types, the most popular is the lingua di meneli, which not only toots, but uncurls its long, papery arm when played.

Above all the Carnevale lingo, the most important to note is the ruling principle of Carnevale in Italy, A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale. Party goers must accept every joke and prank with a smile, as ‘At Carnival, anything goes.’