Carnival in Rome, Equestrian event or ancient festival?

Carnival in Rome, Equestrian event or ancient festival?

The city of Rome has organized for the fifth year the “Carnevale Romano” which will mostly take place downtown between February 2 and the 12th and will hinge on the key feature of the Roman carnival: horses. [1]

Maybe too much horse-centric, we dare to say. The impression is that it is an equestrian event rather than a proper carnival. Horses and horse shows are everywhere, anytime. The two European sister cities of 2013,  Cordoba in Spain and Marseille in France were chosen for their equestrian tradition. We are rather confused….

We know that horses have been at the center of the Roman carnival feast for centuries. At least since when in the second half of the 15th century a Venetian pope, Paul II, wanted them to run along via del Corso (corsa means race in Italian), because that’s how it was celebrated in Venice. Actually Via del Corso was built exactly for this purpose: the Carnival horse race! An accident that killed one person interrupted the official celebrations of the Roman carnival in 1874 until when a few years ago they were re-introduced.

Last year, 800,000 people attended the Rome Carnival’s event which was the most popular equestrian event in Europe [2].

Rugantino, Meo Patacca, Cassandrino, Gaetanaccio, Don Pasquale, general La Rocca. These are all Roman Carnival characters and thanks to the contribution of the Rome Opera theatre you will be able to see countless ancient costumes in downtown Rome. Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, indeed, owns 70,000 historical costumes, carefully preserved in its stores near the Circus Maximus.

Here are a few photos of previous editions. [3]

And this is our story on the best Carnival sweets in Rome, frappe and castagnole, and where you can buy them.


These are some selected events:

The opening parade will start at 3:30pm on the 2nd and will feature more than a hundred walk-ons, artists, actors, coaches and historical group members

The show “ Rome horses” will take place in piazza del Popolo  on February 2-7. This round square will also host the Spanish horse show “Cordoba equestre” on February 8, 9, 10 and 12. The French performance, “Animalglyphe,” will be on February 9 followed by another horse happening involving local animals – butteri.

Italy’s military cavalry will also entertain the public with several shows: this one on the very last day seems the most promising. [4]

Luckily there is something more than horses…. Carnival-inspired Comedy of Art will delight the crowd in Piazza Navona, where it was played until the middle of the 18th century. Yorick, Hamlet’s joker, will be the special guest of this comic theatre festival that will take place throughout the whole Carnival period.   

Last but not least the baroque fireworks from the Pincio terrace on February 12 at 7:30pm. [5]