Sicily Carnival

They're a satirical bunch...

Add This

Sophie Gackowski

Sophie Gackowski
HomeAway travel expert

Sicily CarnivalType ‘Sicily Carnival’ into a search engine and you’ll find websites about Acireale, a coastal town in Catania, which sits at the foot of Mount Etna. Why? Because when carnival season rolls round, it’s the island’s most famous destination – and not only for locals, but tourists around the world. While this northeastern town is usually known for its basilicas and cathedrals, art and paintings, it is regarded as host to Italy’s most amazing celebration in spring, complete with float-filled parades and costume-clad partygoers. And it’s been going since the 16th century.

Fancy getting your gladrags on, too? The main event takes place from mid-February to early March, with major celebrations and parades reserved for the weekend. Well, even Sicilians have to work! Think big, brash and absolutely hilarious.

Here’s all you need to know about Sicily Carnival.


Sicily Carnival: everything you need to know


Sicily Carnival: history Sicily Carnival: history

The traditions that make up the Acireale Carnival are many, though thankfully rotten eggs were banned some time ago… Events like this probably hark back to Roman Baccanali, when townspeople would yell, sing and dress up in weird costumes – well, what do you expect? They were drunk! As time went on things grew a little less furious: more friendly poets, or ‘abbatazzi’, would improvise songs on the streets; and in the 1900s, ‘cassariata’ (horse-led carriages) were topped by nobles who’d shower spectators – no, not in smelly eggs – but confetti and sweets. 

View rentals in Catania province



Sicily Carnival: floats Sicily Carnival: floats

Sicily Carnival had its first float back in 1601, but it wasn’t papier-mâché, and it belonged to Palermo (hiss!). Although the tradition of making floats this way dates back to the 17th century, it was widely used for building icons in Acireale – and let’s face it: that’s a little different to artworks that take the mickey out of local celebs. It took until the 19th century, and a certain Sebastiano Longo, for something like today’s floats to appear.

View holiday homes in Viagrande



Sicily Carnival: parade Sicily Carnival: parade

Today, the biggest draw of the Acireale Carnival is obviously its amazing parade, full to bursting with the outrageous and colourful floats you see here. Leaving from Piazza Duomo, the orange and lemon-scented procession (local fruits are often used in the making of them), is a platform for allegory and poking fun, so expect to hear giggles. You might not know who all the figures are (though Alice in Wonderland’s made the odd appearance) but hey – it’s as much about the spectacle as anything else.

View Aci Castello apartments



Sicily Carnival: taking part Sicily Carnival: taking part

You know those rotten eggs I mentioned? Yeah, don’t worry about those guys. Today it’s all about confetti and foam, the former often made from the morning’s newspaper. And as for the rest? Just stand by and admire – there are concerts, marching bands and at the end of the event, an award ceremony. Prizes are given out to the best artisans in each category, and for floats of a satirical nature, of course, the winners are those who’ve created the most artful slagging-off. You’d think the best-known celebrities, politicians and well-known figures in the country’d be shaking in their boots!

View Catania City holiday homes



Sicily Carnival: Acireale Sicily Carnival: Acireale

Acireale’s own history goes way back to the 8th century BC, so you’ll be able to spot everything from Roman, Greek and Byzantine remains, to beautiful Baroque architecture. As for activities, you’ve got the Ionian Sea one side, Mount Etna on the other, and the larger city of Catania just three miles away. And, when it comes to eating, there are cannoli – oh cannoli. Just reading the name puts on 100 calories. A crispy, tasty, pastry shell stuffed with sweet ricotta, pistachios and dried fruit, who wouldn’t want to eat more than one?

View Acireale rentals


Images 3 and 4 by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo


Sicily Holiday Rentals


From an old boathouse a charming apartment with the most spectacular panoramic view of the old port of Castellmmare del Golfo Casa Laudicina opens out on the balcony with the most spectacular panoramic view of the old port of Castellammare del Go...

Etna Holiday Home- Studio Glicine in Nicolosi, Catania, Sicily, Italy

Immersed in a villa near the center of Nicolosi, our studio Glicine will welcome you with joy and comfort you would expect to find at home. We have decorated Glicine with the same care and precision that we reserved for our own house. For this re...

Etna Holiday Home-

Immersed in a villa near the center of Nicolosi, our apartment Olivo will welcome you with joy and comfort you would expect to find at home. We have decorated Olivo with the same care and precision that we reserved for our own house. For this rea...

Etna Holiday Home- Studio Melograno in Nicolosi, Sicily, Italy

Welcome to Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe. The holiday house "Etna Holiday Home" offers a living in the sign of nature, sport and discovery of this unique region. Entirely furnished and equipped with great care for two or three ...

Charming Apartment on The Seaside of Palermo

The holiday apartment is located in a building elegant and newly renovated just in Kalsa Square, a short walk from the Foro Italico, facing the sea. Apartment is comfortable, with a large bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen (fridge, microwave, wash...

ApartmentsApart Sicilian Eagles - Three Bedroom Apartment, Sleeps 7

Sicilian Eagles is a 140 square metres (1506.4 square feet) Three Bedroom apartment located on Via Pietro Amodei in Palermo. Please check the map for the exact location. Sicilian Eagles is on the 2nd floor and is unfortunately not served by an ele...

ApartmentsApart Cottage Manderino of Villa Paladino Solunto - Two Bedroom Apartment, Sleeps 4

Cottage three-rooms of Villa Paladino Solunto offers romantic, regenerating and pleasant stay for weeks or weekends in a dreaming and welcoming atmosphere, with double room, 2-bedded room, living room, bathroom and kitchenette.

ApartmentsApart Casa Bella - One Bedroom Apartment, Sleeps 2

Casa Bella is a fantastic apartment for couples, right in the heart of the historic centre of the beautiful town of Cefalù. Everything this charming town has to offer is within touching distance, from the long, sandy beach (Lungomare), ...

ApartmentsApart Terrazza del Mare - Two Bedroom Apartment, Sleeps 5

Terrazza del Mare is a wonderful sea view apartment, split over three levels, in the heart of the beautiful old town of Cefalù, a real gem on the edge of the Mediterranean.

The apartment is furnished with comfort and simpli...

ApartmentsApart Terrazza Lungomare - Three Bedroom Apartment, Sleeps 8

Terrazza Lungomare is a pleasant and perfectly located apartment, with the beach on your doorstep and the historic centre of Cefalù just a few metres away. It’s the perfect base from which to enjoy this perfect Sicilian town. With...

italyFrance Valle d'Aosta Piedmont Lombardia Lombardy Emilia Romagna Switzerland Trentino Alto Adige Austria Veneto-Venice Friuli Venezia Giulia Slovenia Slovenia Croatia Tuscany Marche Umbria Lazio Sardinia Abruzzo Molise Puglia Campania Basilicata Calabria Sicily Europe Stati Uniti World


Search for holiday rentals

Search for holiday ideas


Sign up to our newsletter

Our latest updates and special offers, direct to your inbox

Related Articles

Other Categories

Popular Articles