VENICE becomes a city of masks and mystery every February during Carnevale. Carnivals are everywhere and seem to be endless: the Adriatic Festival (Fano), Tempio Pausania (Sassari), Forli and the Feast of the Madonna of Fire, Ronciglione (Viterbo), Bagolino (Brescia), Putignano (Bari), and Santhia (Vercelli).
Feb. 3-5. CATANIA, SICILY. The Feast of Saint Agatha. A three-day celebration in honor of Saint Agatha who was tortured and killed after she spurned the advances of a Roman official. The festivities include parades, fireworks and mass at the cathedral. Bakers prepare special sweet treats, minni di virgini, shaped like a small breast, symbolic of the torture that included having her breast cut off.
Feb. 11-24. VERONA. Valentine’s Day is special for commemorating the setting of Romeo and Juliet. Inhabitants and visitors join in the celebration that includes tours, wine tastings and re-creations of the events of the star-crossed paramours.
Feb. 24. On the Friday before Ash Wednesday, in Verona a procession of revelers in 15th century costume led by a figure representing the papa del gnoco winds its way to Piazza del Duomo, where plates of steaming gnocchi are served. The event is also known as the venerdi (Friday) gnocolar.
Feb. 24-26. BOSA (Nuoro/Sardinia). A figure dressed in the traditional costume of Laldaggiolu opens the parades. During the parade, the people of Bosa satirize the idiosyncrasies and faults of their fellow citizens. On Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, a group dressed in mourning costume improvises a funeral lament as it searches for milk and, in the evening, everyone dresses in a white costume carrying a lantern, to personify carnival.
CARNIVALE. Every Sunday in February there are carnivals with one of the biggest being in Viareggio (Toscana). For over 140 years, residents celebrate with parades. There are floats and masked participants everywhere. It’s a fun time and one can expect fireworks and plenty of food.
IVREA. The Battle of the Oranges commemorates the uprising of the townspeople some 800 years ago against an unjust Spanish lordship, La Tomatina. It involves the tossing of fruit. But, unlike then, this is a very colorful, fun event with teams composed of locals and tourists targeting people on carts.