The Magic Mirror – 2023 Carnevale in Italy

February 6, 2023

Joanne Natale Spigonardo

When 17th Century Venetians started to celebrate Carnevale as we know it today, they dressed in elaborate costumes and masks. The experience was to create an illusion of identity. It was a place and is a place where royalty can mix with anyone. Where the elite are on the same playing field as the masses. It is a place to create a magic mirror that reflects revelry without any distinction of society or class. This year’s theme is in fact the magic mirror. Festivities begins in Venice on February 11 and will run through Tuesday, February 22 this year.

The history of Carnevale or the festival of meats dates back to the 11th Century when Venice was taking a strong hold in Italy over Rome. The festivals started to celebrate the many victories of Venice’s power in Italy. Venice is the Carnevale centerpiece of an extravaganza of events especially the regattas and street parties. Casanova, the renowned lover of Venice, as well as historian of Venice and Carnevale, authored many short stores about his escapades during his time.

Throughout Italy the days before Ash Wednesday became a time to indulge in food, wine, and music. These traditions are still part of life in Italy and throughout the world, the more famous ones are in Brazil and New Orleans. Typically Carnevale is celebrated with parades, parties, and bonfires in village squares. The bonfires are to ward off evil spirts and to spread light and good will. Southern Italy has more religious types of parades, and a tribute to each area’s patron saints. To be followed by delicacies that originated in their towns.

In Italian American families, many of us still uphold Carnevale traditions. Many of us prepare rich pasta sauces, with several types of meat to serve over bucatini – a pasta reserved for special occasions. Sweets are a big part of Carnevale, Cenci are a favorite treat, and are a type of fried sweet bow cookies, also different types of zepole filled with crème are a part of the tradition. Cream puffs, sfogliatelle, cannoli, cookies and cakes of all types are served. A roast of lamb or pork is also a part of the meal. Folks usually have a discussion about all the things they are giving up for Lent and make sure to enjoy the forbidden bites before midnight. Mostly Carnevale is the last hurrah before a time of atonement and reflection.

I hope you celebrate Carnevale this year, and think about the theme of the magic mirror, it’s exciting to step out of your comfort zone and into a mask of disguise and fun for a few days. I hope you enjoy all your special treats as well! Maybe you can try the Cenci Recipe here:

About the Author:

Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, literature, film, history, wine, and cuisine. She is a lover of nature and beauty.  She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon.  For more information about Joanne please visit her LinkedIn page:

Published by spigonaj

Joanne Spigonardo Business Development Consultant Specializing in Sustainability, Higher Education, Career Management, and Public Relations In her former roles, Joanne served as Senior Associate Director at the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) at Wharton. Joanne was also part of the Communications Office. She held positions as business manager of the Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists and for the Wharton Alumni Magazine. Joanne also served as the media relations coordinator. When with Alitalia Airlines, Joanne worked as a sales representative. Joanne graduated from The University of Pennsylvania with a BA and later graduated from the Wharton Aresty Institute of Executive Education. She has a strong background in development, management, marketing, and Italian language and culture. As a Wharton Mentor, she coached new employees on professional development, and is active in Penn’s Grievance panels. Joanne was on the board of governors for the University Club. Joanne is chair of the Delaware County Penn Alumni Interview Program and oversees alumni volunteers. As an alum of Penn and Wharton, and also a parent of two Penn graduates, she is a strong advocate in promoting Penn. At Wharton IGEL, Joanne had been in partnership with GreenBiz, Sustainable Brands, the Ethical Corporation, Pira Packaging International, Public Relations Society of America, the Green Sports Alliance, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, the Italian Consulate, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association, and the Nature Conservancy, as well as, many other NGO and government offices. She has brokered hundreds of corporate relationships for Wharton. Joanne is the author of her book, White Widow, published on Kindle and Amazon. The book is a fictional novel about 19th-20th Century Italian immigrants.

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