On Shrove Tuesday, Brits celebrate one last hurrah before Lent by eating stacks of pancakes – and while we like pancakes as much as any other breakfast food, this practice pales in comparison to the pre-Lenten celebrations of Italians. In Italy, Shrove Tuesday, or Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday), is just one day in a marathon of festivities that can last for weeks. These revelries are known as Carnevale, a culmination of authentic Italian food, parades and parties. Here, the team at Diforti explores the traditions of Carnevale and how you can bring a taste of its fun to your Shrove Tuesday celebrations.
To Venice and Beyond
The most famous Carnevale celebrations are held in Venice, and many would argue that these parties are also the most outrageous. People from all over the world flock to the scenic city for Carnevale, attending massive masquerade balls, gondola parades and concerts over the course of two weeks. Throughout Venice, partiers wear iconic masks and elaborate costumes while dancing, imbibing and revelling in the vibrant atmosphere of the festival.
However, Venice is not the only city with extravagant Carnevale traditions. People all over Italy take pride in the bacchanalia of the holiday. In Verona, a parade of over 500 floats makes its way across the city. In the Piedmontese town of Ivrea, residents take part in the Battle of the Oranges, splitting up into teams and throwing oranges at each other in a raucous frenzy. Still other cities hold ceremonial dances or impressive street performances. Ultimately, Carnevale is a reason for people to come together, and Italians seize upon any opportunity to gather as a community and celebrate!
The Food of Carnevale
Since Lent is typically a period of fasting, abstaining from meat and avoiding excess, Carnevale is an opportunity for people to relish all the indulgences they’ll be giving up for the next 40 days – in fact, ‘Carnevale’ literally means ‘farewell to meat’.
It’s only fitting, then, that lasagna is a popular food at Carnevale feasts, as it’s a sumptuous combination of meat, pasta, ricotta and mozzarella. Sausages, cheeses and antipasti also have a special place at the table.
Still, the main attractions of Carnevale are typically the sweet treats. Chiacchere are strips of fried dough that are flavoured with lemon and dusted with confectioner’s sugar; migliaccio is a lemon and ricotta cake with a beautifully light texture. But our very favourite Carnevale desserts are none other than cannoli, tube-shaped fried pastries that are filled with cream. We love cannoli so much that we sell them in a variety of flavours in our Italian deli online. From lemon, to pistachio, to cappuccino, to chocolate hazelnut, to white chocolate, you won’t find a selection like ours in any Italian delicatessen in London!
While you might not be able to make it to Venice for the masquerade ball, you can still celebrate Carnevale in true Italian style with a little help from Diforti. Simply gather all of the ingredients to make a beautiful lasagna, indulge in your favourite cannoli flavour and pop open a bottle of Italian wine – just be sure to polish everything off before Lent rolls around!