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Roman Carnival

The Roman Carnival is an ancient traditional festival that has been passed down and still celebrated today. The celebration is well known for its history, the decorative masks and the various events that take place around the city.

The History of Carnival in Rome

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.

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.
Along Via del Corso , two popular carnival events take place, the Corsa dei Moccoletti and the Corsa dei Barberi. The first was a race whose contestants would run while holding a candle and at the same time attempt to blow out the candles of the others. The second, was one of the most famous and awaited traditions of carnival, which was the running of Berber horses, a famous breed of horses. During this event, the Berbers would be let loose at People Square (Piazza del Popolo) and had to run to Venice Square (Piazza Venezia), all the while, the stable boys called “barbareschi” would try to jump on the horses and block their path. Over the years, these competitive events have faded away, though Carnival continues in a more artistic light with its many theatre shows, masks and costumes, and various allegorical events that take place in many squares around the city.

The Masks of Carnival in Rome
Just like the Carnival in Venice or in Naples, Rome also has a number of typical masks connected to folklore.

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.


Carnival in Rome Nowadays
Today Carnival in Rome begins every year with a parade of allegorical masks and costumes along Via del Corso. For about 10 days around the city, there are various musicals, theatre shows, concerts and dance performances. In the most famous streets and squares around the city like Navona, Peoples Square and the Spanish Square there are various events such as street theatre performances, equestrian exhibitions, comedies and costume displays.
Check the calendar and program schedules at Carnevale di Roma!

River Boat Cruise on the Tiber
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Don't miss the beauty of Rome from the Tiber River, a great way to discover the treasures of the city from another point of view.

In Ancient Rome, the Tiber was strategically importance for the city.  It was  on this river that the first settlements were built that eventually grew into the large buildings now found along the Tiber and throughout the city.   As in other cities such as London and Paris, tour boats were introduced along the river in 2003 to allow this unique opportunity to  view the city from the banks of the roman river both by day or by night.
The river cruise on the Tiber is a great way to explore the city and take a few romantic photos, surrounded by the Eternal City. Along this cruise you can admire the great Palace of Justice, designed by William Calderoni;  Sant'Angelo Castle, one of the oldest monuments of Rome; and also St. Peter's Basilica. Continuing down the river, you will find Tiberina Island, a picturesque island linked by one of the most famous bridges in the city, which you'll pass under before continuing on to discover other popular attactions in Rome.



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