February is always quite a jolly month, over here.
Winter is finally coming to an end, we start feeling the warmth of spring, mimosa flowers are blooming almost everywhere and there are a lot of fun events around the country.
Actually, apart from the dawn of spring, February means basically two things, here in Italy: the Festival di Sanremo and the celebrations of Carnevale. The first event usually takes place in the first week of February, while Carnevale reaches its peak toward the end of the month so pretty much of the month is covered.
But let’s see what happened in detail.
Every year, February begins with the Festival di Sanremo. this event, whose name is actually Festival della Canzone Italiana (Festival of the Italian Song), is a song contest that takes place every year in Sanremo, a city in the west of Liguria, not far from the border to France. The contest was first invented in 1951 and it’s been steadily going on ever since.
The Festival di San Remo is quite an old-fashioned event, but it still captures the attention of the whole country during a week at the beginning of February. Media talk about the contest all the time and, even if you do not follow the Festival, it’s impossible not to hear about it. People talk about the songs, the dresses, the international guests, giving their opinion pretty much about everything.
What’s funny, though, is that people completely forget about it after that week. Only a few songs “survive” and are still played on the radio after the show. This is due to the fact that, even if it’s called Festival of the Italian Song, it actually does not represent contemporary Italian music. But it’s fun to follow the chaos of the event, anyway.
This year, there has been quite a controversy because the winner is a young, almost unknown guy who beat one of the queens of Italian music, whose name is Fiorella Mannoia. The winner is Francesco Gabbani, who won with a song called Occidentali’s Karma, an only apparently silly song about the obsession of the Western world with spiritualism and Eastern philosophy.
I quite like the song, what do you think?
The one below is the song which ranked the second place in the contest, for you to compare. I actually have no doubts, the song that won totally deserved it!
The other big event of the month of February in Italy is Carnevale. As I have told you in these two posts about it, Carnival is a celebration that takes place more or less everywhere in Italy. Almost every town has its own Carnival party, with floats, parades, and people wearing costumes.
Actually, some Carnivals are more famous than others. The most famous Carnival in Italy is probably the one in Venice, which has a particular charm and atmosphere as people wear old-style costumes and elegant masks. The celebrations always begin with the Volo dell’Angelo (the flight of the angel), when a young lady flies over San Marco square, and end on Martedì Grasso, the last day of Carnival, with a big feast in the main square and the Svolo del Leon, where the lion, symbol of Venice, flies towards the Bell Tower in San Marco square, symbolizing the end of the Carnival.
Carnival in Venice (photo Carnevale di Venezia)
But there are other famous Carnivals in Italy, as well. In Viareggio, a coastal town in Northern Tuscany, every year there are big parades with floats and huge masks. What makes such Carnival especially popular is that floats are always devoted to contemporary news and events, with masks depicting politicians and celebrities. Similar Carnivals take place in Cento, in Emilia-Romagna, in Fano, Marche, and in Putignano, Apulia.
Some celebrations are quite peculiar, like the one in Ivrea, Piedmont, where people fight using oranges as weapons, or in Milan, where they have a different calendar. As a matter of fact, Carnival in Milan begins when other Carnivals ends: it starts on Martedì Grasso and the last day is on the following Saturday, four days after all other celebrations in Italy. This is due to the fact that Saint Ambrose, who was away from Milan, especially asked to wait for him to start the period of Lent.
Carnival in Viareggio (photo Travel FanPage)
Speaking of Milan, it’s been on the news for quite a while in February! Why? Well, it’s all Starbucks’ fault! As you may have already heard, Starbucks is finally arriving in Italy and the first city to be elected for an opening is Milan. It seems that there’ll be a huge Starbucks, in Piazza del Duomo, right in the center of town. This is already a scandal for some purists of Italian coffee, but what really caused chaos is the fact that Starbucks planted some palm and banana trees, which seemed inappropriate for a town in the North. I still haven’t seen them, but I am always open to new things…so, why not?
the planting of palm trees in Piazza Duomo (photo La Repubblica)
Now tell me, what happened in your country this past month?
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!