Rome's city council has organised a programme of events to celebrate the traditional carnival season. Carnivale Romano takes place from 26 February to 8 March, bringing parades, theatre, music and colour to the streets and squares of the capital. For 11 days the historic centre becomes the carnival's headquarters, with Rome's Teatro dell'Opera providing the costumes for a 16th-century-themed stage in Piazza del Popolo.

The festivities begin at 17.30 on 26 February with a costume parade on horseback in Piazza del Popolo that will feature theatrical groups and equestrian associations including the Corazzieri, one of the Italian military's historic equestrian units. The parade is designed to evoke the races of Berber horses that took place along Via del Corso during carnival time until the 19th century.

Children are especially well-catered for with a wide range of theatrical activities inspired by the ancient festival while from 26 February to 8 March, the Museo di Roma Palazzo Braschi hosts Roman Carnival: the rebirth of a tradition, an exhibition of photographs inspired by carnivals past and present by Barbara Roppo and Broken Lens.

This year's carnival sees Rome being twinned with two other carnivals: one in Viareggio in northern Tuscany and the other in St Petersburg in Russia. A performance based on the annual Russian Orthodox religious festival Maslenitsa will be staged in Piazza del Popolo, and forms part of the Year of cultural cooperation between Italy and Russia.

The last performance is on 8 March, Shrove Tuesday, with the show Lilly and the Butterfly. The festival finishes with a firework display from the terrace at Pincio. The next day is Ash Wednesday signifying the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and reflection observed by Christians in the lead-up to Easter.

For programme details call the city council