Revelling in the Carnival of Milan
28 January, 2016
Milan is celebrated as having one of the highest economic development rates among Italy’s cities. It is also famed for being one of the international hubs of fashion and design. When considering a trip to this incredible city, we inevitably think of attending one of its great fashion shows, roaming through its boundless Furniture Fair or delighting in window shopping its fabulous stores and splashing out on the amazing apparel, if we can afford it.
Some head for Milan to soak up its cultural assets by visiting its most emblematic monuments, notably the Duomo or the Castello Sforzesco, relishing the artworks housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera, the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and the Museo del Novecento, or venturing into the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. There, the art lover is greeted by one of the icons of art history, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Then again, others prefer to don their finery to attend an opera performance in the iconic Teatro alla Scala.
The Carnevale Ambrosiano
No less celebrated is one of Milan’s more spirited, entertaining facets – its Carnival. When the subject of Italy’s carnivals comes up, it is common to talk about the two most popular instances in the land. First, the Venice Carnival, with its magnificent face masks and spectacular period costumes, which unfolds against the magical backdrop of that unique city. The other is the Viareggio Carnival, where festival-goers never fail to be amazed by the mechanical ingenuity of the floats that file past during the parade.
The Carnevale Ambrosiano, as Milan’s carnival is known, offers a peculiarity which makes it stand out from the rest – its duration. Carnival usually ends on Carnival Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, which then gives way to Ash Wednesday, marking the start of Lent. In the case of Milan, it extends four more days, lasting until the Saturday, known locally as Sabato Grasso. And, it’s not merely because of some whim, as the reason for its duration is related to a long-standing legend. It is said that the bishop, St Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, who happened to be on a long pilgrimage in foreign lands, requested an extension of Carnival until his return to the city, as he wished to celebrate the start of Lent with all his people.
Like any noteworthy carnival, the Milan Carnival prizes itself on its parades and street festivities, characterised by a fanfare of colour, music and festive atmosphere. On the Saturday, the crowning event is a grand parade which ends in one of the city’s most emblematic spots, the Piazza del Duomo.
One of the standout aspects of this Carnival is the traditional costume known as the Meneghino. Just as the figure of the harlequin is traditional in Bergamo, or Pantaleon in Venice, the Milan Carnival has its own popular figure, drawn from the Italian Commedia dell'arte. TheMeneghinocan be spotted by his three-cornered hat.
Among the traditional confectionery loved by the Milanese are the chiacchiere and bugie, simple fried pastries made of flour and coated in castor sugar which are ideal for topping up your strength between one street party and the next.
Don your mask and come to Milan to delight in its Carnival!
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Images by gnuckx
28 January, 2016