Getting Ready for Carnival in Milano

Did you know that Carnival lasts longer in Milano?

A typical Catholic and Christian celebration, Carnival involves parades, parties, masquerading and sweet treats. Once a year, the world is turned upside down as a few days of follies and eccentricities precede the forty rigorous days of Lent that lead up to Easter. Everybody has heard of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival, of course. In Italy, Venice and Viareggio hold masquerades and parades just as beautiful (and there are many others, each one different, all over the country!). Around the world, festivities culminate on Mardi Gras, which is the last day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins.

Locals celebrating Carnival at the DuomoAll over the world, except in Milano.

That’s because a slightly different liturgical rite, called the Ambrosian Rite – the Rito Ambrosiano named after a fourth century bishop of Milan – is followed here and in the surrounding areas. As the legend goes, Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, was away on a pilgrimage; when he announced he’d be back in time for Carnival, the people decided to wait to celebrate with him, so that now it lasts four days longer than any other Carnival – until Saturday, called appropriately sabato grasso (or Samedi Gras). Then, Lent starts on Sunday instead of Ash Wednesday.

As a consequence, Samedi Gras is the hottest day in Ambrosian Carnival, when the biggest events are held and confetti colors the whole city. Of course, the main events take place downtown all around Piazza del Duomo – all you’ve got to do is go in centro on Saturday afternoon to find yourself surrounded by masks, traveling entertainers, music and party noise!

This year, Samedi Gras will take place on Saturday 8 March, which also happens to be International Women’s Day.

So, to start off the festivities, here’s what to do. First of all, make sure you try out the most famous Carnival dessert, chiacchiere. Find out more about this delicious tradition.

And don’t forget, you’ll need a costume! Check out this information on Halloween costumes (all stores included in the article will be all decked out and supplied with Carnival costumes in the days leading up to the final day of celebrations).

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