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Foiano della Chiana Carnival – A Party Centuries in the making!
23rd February 2020
1st March 2020
- 1 What is the Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
- 2 When is Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
- 3 Where is Foiano della Chiana?
- 4 What is the history of Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
- 5 How do they celebrate carnival in Foiano della Chiana?
- 6 Cantierie – The Four Competing Districts
- 7 Foiano della Chiana Carnival Floats
- 8 365 Days of Preparation!
- 9 The Float Parade – ‘Corso Mascherato’
- 10 Foiano della Chiana Carnival Parade Dates
- 11 The Mask Parade
- 12 King Giocondo – An ancient tradition
- 13 Foiano della Chiana Tickets
- 14 How to get to Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
- 15 How to get around Foiano della Chiana during Carnival?
- 16 Where to stay for Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
- 17 What to do and see in Foiano della Chiana
What is the Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
The Foiano della Chiana Carnival or Carnevale di Foiano della Chiana is an annual pre-Lenten carnival and one of the most important events in Italy, famous for its spectacular floats, festive atmosphere and historical tradition! This carnival also happens to be one of the oldest carnivals in Italy, as its celebrations were documented back in 1539!
Foiano della Chiana Carnival occurs in the city of Foiano dell Chiana in Tuscany, Italy. This pretty medieval village comes alive every year and the spirit of carnival brings tradition, folklore, fun and colour to both the locals and visitors, in a celebration that attracts everyone, young and old alike!
When one thinks of carnival they may think about Rio and its samba schools or Venice and its beautiful masks, or Viareggio and its amazing floats, but in Foiano della Chiana, the essence of carnival is the historical significance and the deep-seated feeling inside the people who live in this town. In Foiano, carnival is a personal thing, it’s a part of every inhabitant and an eternal gift for those who have the good fortune to experience it.
On five festive Sundays, this small Tuscan village transforms into an open-air theatre that brings the ancient art of papier-mache to life! Every year during carnival, the famous papier-mache floats are paraded through the streets creating an eye-popping spectacle! Foiano dell Chiana Carnival was derived from ancient medieval rituals created to appease the local townsfolk and create a joyous atmosphere to bring in the New Year.
When is Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
Italy is a predominantly Catholic county and in Catholic countries carnival generally occurs in the period between the Epiphany which is the 6th January and Easter which is no later then April every year. The Foiano della Chiana Carnival occurs over the four consecutive Sundays prior to Lent and the one right after it, which are known as the five festive Sunday’s!
The dates for the 2020 Foiano della Chiana Carnival are Sunday the 2nd, 9th, 16th & 23rd of February and Sunday the 1st March 2020.
Where is Foiano della Chiana?
Fioano della Chiana is a small Italian agricultural town (wine, cereal & tobacco) that is located in the province of Arezzo, in eastern Tuscany. This delightful village with a population of 9500 sits between the cities of Sinalunga and Cortona.
This carnival occurs in an absolutely spectacular setting! Foiano della Chiana stands on a low hill in the Val di Chiana, which is a real ancient gem with both Etruscan and Roman origins. It was once frequented by Da Vinci during the Renaissance and famous painter Giorgio Vasari even painted it in the fresco of the Battle of San Gallo which is located in the Hall of the Five Hundred in Florence.
The floats parade marches slowly down Corso Vittorio Emanuele and in the central square of Fioano della Chiana there will be a big stage set up for shows and entertainment. It will also feature a maxi screen so that you can view the floats throughout their entire journey.
What is the history of Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
Carnival in Foiano della Chiana dates back centuries to 1539, way back to the town’s pagan origins! The festival initially began like many ancient carnivals as a way to celebrate the end of winter and usher in a new and better year. After Christianity spread throughout Italy, carnival became a festive celebration that occurred to mark the start of Lent.
Foiano della Chiana Carnival in its modern form is relatively recent. Around the 1930’s parades of carriages would occur on Shrove Tuesday, throwing fruit and sweets to the crowd. Today carnival is more or less the same, but the carriages turned into giant papier-mache masterpieces!
How do they celebrate carnival in Foiano della Chiana?
Carnival is like many other pre-Lenten carnivals, a moment of liberation before Lent. Carnevale in the Tuscan style is a pure reflection of their independent spirt, irony, sense of humour and is deeply rooted in their culture and history. In Tuscany it is impossible to not get swept up in the pure joy and wonder of carnival that accompanies all the merry making!
The Tuscans have a saying about carnival which is “A carnevale, ogni scherzo vale”, which translates to “Every joke is allowed during Carnival”. This is the Tuscan personality, they let loose and have fun during carnival, it is who they are!
The main attraction of Foiano della Chiana Carnival is the parades, which feature the four enormous papier-mache floats. After the parade at 6pm is brings Carnevalandia, a free children’s extravaganza offering theatre shows, clowns, jugglers, treats, games and balloons. Another highlight for the kids is the Valdichiana Disney Parade which will features over 100 fairy tale characters.
Also on during carnivals are fashion shows and live music. Another highlight of carnival will be the National Biennial of painting. Visit the contemporary art exhibition “Supreme” by Massimilliano Lucchetti. And bring your appetite to carnival because there are lots of incredible food and drink vendors selling the most amazing food and delicious Tuscan treats.
Cantierie – The Four Competing Districts
The population of Foiano della Chiana is divided up into four competing factions known as the cantiere. The four districts are Azzurri (blue), Bombolo (plump), Nottambuli (night-owls) and Rustici (rutic). During carnival, the colours and symbols of each cantiere are represented all over the town.
There are no physical boundaries between the districts, rather selecting your allegiance to a cantierie is a personal choice! Some may select because of family history or friendship. From a young age people join a cantiere and work on the float or take part in the masquerade, everyone is involved, and everyone plays a part!
Each faction battles it out in the parades with confetti and papier-mâché, creating works of art appreciated worldwide! They compete for glory and the prized Coppa del Carnevale or the Carnival Cup, along with bragging rights for the next year. All year people work together inside their base known as the cantieri, to brainstorm, design, and create the giant floats.
Foiano della Chiana Carnival Floats
Foiano della Chiana Carnival boasts a long and illustrious history and the centre piece of this ancient tradition is a competition between the town’s four districts to produce four incredible papier-mache floats which presents themes from politics to mythology to pop culture and everything in between. A special jury declares the winner, who will be awarded the Coppa del Carnevale.
The Foiano della Chiana Carnival Floats are incredible works of art that are revered all over the world. The floats are enormous, and they measure up to 17 meters long, 10 meters in width and 13 meters high. These giant papier-mache masterpieces are made from ancient building techniques that were used to create tall ships.
365 Days of Preparation!
This carnival is an important part of the town’s culture and an immense source of pride and joy for the locals! The town puts their heart and soul into creating this carnival and spends the entire year working hard to create the amazing floats for carnival! And what is even more special is that they do these activities voluntarily, without receiving any compensation.
The four floats are all created in the same building, which is appropriately divided so that various groups don’t pry or interfere with each other. All groups operate under complete secrecy and nothing is revealed until the first parade! Each group chooses a theme on which to build its own float. All the floats are completely original and no part of an old float can be used for the new one!
The floats begin with the brainstorming and then drawing out their chosen idea. Then the mechanical part comes next, then clay sculptures, followed by plastering with papier-mache and then they colour and polish the floats. These floats are the result of blood, sweat and tears! Countless hours of work goes into their making through dedication and passion.
The Float Parade – ‘Corso Mascherato’
The parade of floats is called ‘Corso Mascherato’. They take place on the four Sundays preceding Shrove Tuesday, and the following one after it. The floats are judged by a panel of experts which includes one painter one journalist, a sculptor, art critic and scenographer. The winner is declared at the last float contest, on the final Sunday!
There is an anxious wait to see the first display of the floats and the first time they leave their building and are revealed to the public is called the ‘apertura degli uscioni’. Accompanying the float’s, are bands of musicians from all over Tuscany and beyond, with lots of costumed masquerades.
Thousands of peoples from all over come out to watch the parades and everywhere you look you will see lots of masks, costumes and excitement. The atmosphere is electric and cheerfully celebratory as the floats and costumed dancers make their way along the medieval streets.
Besides the parades there is also lots of entertainment, live music, games, children’s entertainment, food and drink vendors and a DJ mix held all throughout the city for anyone who wants to have fun during carnival Sunday!
Foiano della Chiana Carnival Parade Dates
- 1st Parade: Sunday 2nd, February @ 11.00am, 3.00pm start of fashion shows
- 2nd Parade: Sunday 9th February @ 12:00
- 3rd Parade: Sunday 16th February 2020 @ 12:00
- 4th Parade: Sunday 23rd February 2020 @ 12:00
- 5th Parade & Burning of Carnival King: Sunday 1st March 2020 @ 12:00
The Mask Parade
There is also a joyful and exciting Parade of Masks that occurs during carnival! The best part about this parade is that everyone is welcome to join in! So, if you love dressing up in creative and imaginative costumes, then why not take part! From this parade the three most beautiful costumes and the best individual one will be selected as winners.
King Giocondo – An ancient tradition
Dominating the carnival scenes is the Carnival King – King Giocondo or Re Giocondo in Italian, which translates as the Carefree King. The King opens and leads the carnival procession every Sunday and is followed by the floats, carnival masks and bands. On the last Sunday of carnival, King Giocondo, is burnt in a spectacular ceremony that is called the ‘rificolonata’.
In this small farming community, the burning of the King symbolises a form of collective purification for the town’s residents. This archaic symbol, made of rags and straw, pays tribute to rebirth, celebrating the end of winter and darkness and providing hope for a better future.
An amusing part of this folkloristic tradition is the reading of King Giocondo’s will. This is a testament of the year’s events both happy and sad. It is read aloud like an epilogue for the previous year and a prologue to the next year and in typical Tuscan humour, various town characters are mocked.
This leads up to the final and most anticipated part, revealing the winner of the Carnival Cup! The rankings are read out from last to first, increasing the anticipation until the winner is finally announced! After the will, the King is set on fire with the classic rificolonata lantern.
Foiano della Chiana Tickets
Normal Ticket: € 9.00
Children under 150cm in height: FREE
Family Discount: 2 adults + one or more children (under 150cm in height): € 15.00
Discounted Coop Centro Italia Members: € 8.00
Discounts for groups of 20+ people: € 7.00
Season tickets for 5 parades: € 25.00
*Please note that the discounts cannot be combined.
You can purchase your tickets online here.
How to get to Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
Italy has an incredible bus and train network that can easily get you from anywhere in the country or even other European destinations.
By plane: the closest airport is Perugia which is about 60 km away. Peretola Airport in Florence airport is about 90 km and you can also fly to Pisa airport which is about 160 km away.
By train: One can easily reach the Arezzo train station and then continue on with the Arezzo-Sinalunga line directly to Foiano della Chiana.
By car: Take the A1 motorway and exit at Valdichiana/ Bettolle/ Sinalunga. Continue on the SS327 until you arrive in Foiano della Chiana. Foiano della Chiana is about a 3-hour drive North of Rome.
How to get around Foiano della Chiana during Carnival?
If you are staying in the city then it is very easy to get around on foot. If you are coming from outside then please note that there are lots of parking lots around the walls of the historic centre.
You are able to park for free at the Valdichiana Outlet Village and there is a free shuttle which departs from there and runs every 15 minutes directly to the historic centre of the town, where the event takes place!
Where to stay for Foiano della Chiana Carnival?
Foiano della Chiana is a small rural farming community but there are a few accommodation options that you can stay at in town that are around 3-star quality. You must book early because accommodation books up quickly and lots of tourists come to witness this carnival celebration.
There are plenty of nearby accommodation just outside the centre of the town that you can stay and then just drive to carnival.
Check out some accommodation options here.
What to do and see in Foiano della Chiana
While visiting Foaino della Chiana Carnival, get ready to spend a few days in the stunning Val Di Chiana, an enchanting land filled with gorgeous villages. Have a relaxing vacation in the heart of Tuscany where you can discover the traditions, ancient values, flavours, colours, beauty and of course good wine.
We highly recommend doing some food and wine tasting tours in Montepulciano, about 18 km away. Visit Lucignano, about 10 km away, or Castiglion Fiorentino about 19kms away, which are both famous for their museums and castles. Take a guided tour of Arezzo and its surroundings. Visit Cortona, about 25 km away, which is famous for its style and archaeological site. Or visit Regional Park of Lake Trasimeno, 30 km away.
There are plenty of leisure activities like great golfing in the region, or take some tennis or riding lessons. You could try out a Tuscan cooking class or indulge in a wellness treatment at Terme di Rapolano, 27 km away. If you love shopping then do some outlet shopping at Valdichiana outlet, 2 km.
For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.