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Carnevale Ambrosiano- Carnival in Milan


Carnival in Milan follows the Ambrosian rite

Il Carnevale di Milano  is celebrated on the day before the beginning of Lent. Carnival in Milan follows the Ambrosian rite and is celebrated one week after Carnival in Venice which follows the Roman rite.

What is Carnival?

It’s the last day of celebrations before the forty-day period of Lent (a period of penitence and fasting) before Easter. Carne means meat, vale means farewell or goodbye in Latin, hence Carnevale means farewell to meat before the 40 days of Lent. Carnevale was the last day to eat meat and other rich delicacies before abstaining for Lent. Wearing masks and costumes was a way to hide one’s identity, social class, and inhibitions on this day of frolicking festivities.

Carnival falls on a different day each year according to the liturgical calendar. The carnival period formally begins on the Catholic feast, the Sunday of Septuagesima – about 70 days before Easter Sunday.

Carnival in Milan

According to the Roman rite, Carnival is celebrated the Sunday following Shrove Thursday, while in the Ambrosian rite, Carnival is celebrated the Saturday following Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.
Check our calendar of events to learn when Carnival is celebrated in Milan.

The Ambrosiano Carnival celebrated in Milan starts on the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday) and ends on the following Saturday. The Milan Carnival takes its name from Sant ‘Ambrogio, bishop and patron of Milan, who, being out of the city for a pilgrimage, asked to postpone the end of the carnival by 4 days just to allow him to return in time to start to the liturgical rites of Lent.

Gli Sbandieratori – flag corps marching in Milan Carnival Parade / Wikimedia

Parades & Events

In various locations throughout the city, there are usually events and activities for all, including families and children. Piazza Duomo and the surrounding areas are the main locations for festivities. Street performers, clowns parades and concerts all day and evening long.

The main Milano parade with costumes, jugglers, pantomimes and floats will start from  I Giardini Publici, Palestro, Piazza San Babila, Corso Europa, Piazza Fontana ending in Piazza Cesare Beccaria (near Piazza Duomo)

Note: Due to Covid-19 restrictions 2022 formal parades and events will not be held.

Traditional masks and costumes

Milan Carnival Masks and Costumes / Dreamstime

Traditional costumes at the Milan  Carnival Parade / Wikimedia

Menghino and his wife La Cecca,  characters invented by burlesque comedy play-write Carlo Maria Maggi. Meneghino was the term used for sixteenth-century Milanese butlers who accompanied noblemen and women in their carriages. They became symbols of the honest, hard-working, joyful Milanese.

Meneghino (pronounced men-eh-GHEE-no)

What to eat at Carnival


A light pastry fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar or glazed with chocolate. You can find them in any and every bakery or pastry shop at Carnival time.

Chiacchiere / Maristella Predomo

Chiacchiere (pronounced KIA-kia-rey) – Chiacchiere means “gossip”.

Bugie di Carnevale

Bugie di carnevale / C. Abernethy

Bugie di Carnevale – Bugie means “lies” . These are fluffy, fried pastry filled with pastry cream and sprinkled with sugar.

What to say

There is no formal expression for Carnival, people say “Buon Carnevale” Happy Carnival or simply “Auguri“, Best Wishes. The main thing is to have a bit of fun- “Divertiti!”

Article by Celia Abernethy

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