Carnival in Rome

Rome prepares for carnival season

Rome is holding numerous events to celebrate the traditional carnival season which begins on 7 February and ends ten days later on 17 February.

This year Carnevale celebrates Queen Christina of Sweden on the 360th anniversary of her arrival in Rome, with a number of initiatives organised by the city in collaboration with the Swedish embassy and the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome.

The first event is a photographic exhibition of previous Roman carnivals, opening at 10.30 on 7 February at the Biblioteca Angelica, followed by a lecture entitled Christina of Sweden and the Roman Carnival, involving historians, scholars and representatives of the Accademia dell'Arcadia, one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of Roman literature.

On 12 February between 15.00 and 17.00, the courtyard of Palazzo Braschi hosts Il Generale Mannaggia La Rocca, a play inspired by Carnevale and tracing the tradition of commedia dell'arte.

Later that day the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome holds an international seminar titled Cristina di Svezia e le scienze. Piazza Navona hosts puppet shows on 12, 14 and 15 February, from 16.00, while from 15.00 on 15 February the Accademia Nova plays baroque music in the rooms of the National Gallery of Ancient Art at Palazzo Corsini, the historic home of Christina of Sweden.

Many of the carnival events are geared towards children, with the Bioparco in Villa Borghese promising two days of fun and educational activities on 8 and 15 February. The zoo's youngest vistors will be greeted by entertainers dressed as animals, and there will be a performance involving clowns, children and parents at 12.30 and 15.00 on both days, followed by awards for the best mask or costume.

However the most well-known of Rome's annual carnival events is the horse-drawn parade taking place along Via del Corso at 16.00 on 17 February. Involving more than 100 horses and carriages, the parade evokes the Berber horse race that was historically the most important event of the Roman Carnival until 1874 when it was abolished by King Victor Emmanuel II due to the death of a spectator.

That evening Carnevale ends with the annual firework display in Piazza del Popolo.

Traditionally carnival is the period of fun and festivities that runs up to the 40 days of fasting and prayer that Christians observe during Lent, which begins this year on 18 February, with Ash Wednesday, and ends with Easter Sunday on 5 April.