Now in its
fifth year, the Carnevale Romano (Roman
Carnival) has become a highlight on the city’s calendar –
at least for fans of
equestrian sport. Last year’s Carnival was
Europe’s single largest equestrian event with 800,000 spectators. And the 2013 celebrations,
which take place from 2 to 12 February, promise to be every bit as grand.
Rome’s Carnival is relatively new, its equestrian flavour isn’t – which is what
sets it apart from Carnival celebrations elsewhere in the world, including in
the famous festivities in Venice. As far back as the 15th Century, Rome’s
Carnival culminated with races by rider-less Barbary horses down the Via del
Corso, the former ancient Via Flaminia, which runs right through the city centre
(corso means “race” in Italian). But
after centuries of celebration – with the races attended by everyone from
Goethe to Gogol, Dickens to Dumas – tragedy struck in 1874, when a spectator
was trampled by a horse and killed. King Victor Emanuel II banned the races,
and Rome’s Carnival began to decline. Until five years ago, that is, when the
city reintroduced the festivities.
Carnival kicks off with an
opening parade at 3:30 pm through the city centre, from Piazza del Popolo
down Via di Ripetta and back up Via del Corso, all in the heart of Rome’s
historic centre. The parade will have more than 100 horses –including the world-famous
Lipizzaner breed – as well as coaches, historical groups and actors costumed by
the Rome Opera House. That’s also
when the revamped square of Piazza del Popolo, the hub of the Carnival action, will
be unveiled, with the elaborate tents and staging created by the Rome Opera
House’s head designer Maurizio Varamo for the Carnival.
complete with equestrian dancers and costumed performers take place at 6 pm from
3 through 7 February, and even Italy’s military cavalry gets in on the fun with
several performances; watch the one by the 8th Regiment of the
Carabinieri at 4:30 pm on 12 February in Piazza del Popolo – the highlight of
their show is the Carousel
of Lances, where riders carrying 2m lances steer their horses into carefully-choreographed
2013 Carnival isn’t all about horses. Throughout the festival’s 11 days, street
performers – from jugglers to stilt-walkers to dancers – will entertain at
Piazza Navona. In a nightly
multimedia show, larger-than-life light projections will cover the Baroque arch
of the Porta del Popolo, while
school for children in Piazza del Popolo and the performances by the Commedia dell’Arte, a comedic theatre troupe who will be performing
frequently in Piazza Navona, should not be missed.
And for the
dramatic climax, head to the terrace of Pincian
Hill, above Piazza del Popolo, at 7:30 pm on 12 February for a fireworks
complete event schedule is available on the Roman Carnival 2013 website. All events
are free and open to the public.
Amanda Ruggeri is the Rome Localite for BBC
Travel. She also writes revealedrome.com.