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).

Celebrating Halloween in Milano?

Historically, Italy has been a prevalently Catholic country. So it should come as no surprise that all the big Vatican holidays on the calendar are also national holidays in the bel paese, giving students and workers a break from their everyday routine. On some campuses, these holidays also coincide with exams, and at Bocconi partial exams are scheduled around the time of All Saints’ Day, November 1.

Black gloves with painted bones

In recent years, the Anglo-Saxon tradition of Halloween has crept into popular culture around Milano, especially among the younger generations. Kids might dress up as witches and vampires, enjoying another opportunity to wear a fun costume. Same goes for the twenty-something crowd, because there are lots of parties at clubs around town where you can dress up and dance the night away. Just do an internet search for Halloween parties in Milano and you’ll be spoiled for choice.

But before heading out to that special party on the 31st, you’ll need a costume! It’s too late to take advantage of the many online resources available (shipping takes at least a few days). And if you’re not into DIY, or you left your handy sewing machine back home, your only option are those old-fashioned brick-and-mortar shops. Luckily for you, Milano has several options:

  • Most of the larger supermarkets have a small selection of the usual costume supplies like hats, make-up kits and some low-quality outfits. Some might be more geared towards the kids, but it’s usually worth a browse while picking up some groceries.
  • There are lots of variety stores or discount stores scattered around the city that often carry holiday supplies. Cartolerie (office and school supply stores) also might have children-oriented goods.
Window with Halloween decorationsIf you want the more variety and maybe higher quality, there are also quite a few stores specializing in costumes in various parts of Milano. Here are just a few:
  • Mondo in Festa, Via Col di Lana 7. This is the closest holiday supply store to the Bocconi campus. It’s fairly small but should have a few options, including face paints, costumes and other supplies if you’re hosting a Halloween party.
  • Carneval Planet, Piazzale Cantore 5. Very close to the Darsena and the Navigli, this is a larger shop with a wide variety of costumes. It’s also pretty close to campus.
  • La Bottega del Carnevale, Via Mercato 5. This store has been specializing in costumes for decades. It’s huge and located near the Lanza station, near Brera. Worth a visit any time of year!
  • Party World, Via Alessandro Volta 16. Near the Moscova subway stop, this place has a good supply of costumes and supplies.
  • Publimagic, Via Paolo Lomazzo 25. You can rent costumes here if you’d rather not buy your costume. Just make sure you’re not too late to get the one you want! Located near Corso Sempione.
  • Party Magic, Via San Gregorio, 6. Located near the Lima subway stop (red line), here’s another option for your fancy dress needs.

The above links are generally in Italian, so for more info, either get an Italian-speaking friend to help you out or go directly to the store to see for yourself. And of course, be safe, dress to the nines, have fun and…

Happy Halloween!