The Carnival in Sicily has ancient origins

Known for its elaborate masks and allegorical floats, the Carnival of Sicily is considered to be one of the most beautiful celebrations in Italy this time of year. In a process requiring time and patience as well as talent, local artisans create floats made out of paper-mache or flowers, a local tradition dating all the way back to the 1600s. Displays often depict the satirical masks of celebrities and competition is fierce as prizes are awarded to the best floats in each category.

It is the feast of abundance and binge eating before Lent fasting. This is the week of the year when delicious gravies and rich dishes are served at our tables; macaroni, cavateddi (a type of pasta) with meat sauce and pork rind, the traditional fat Thursday soup, typical of Modica County, and a lot of sweets as the Turkish’s heads of Scicli, the pignolata of Messina and the delicious chiacchere, strips of sweet pastry dough fried and coated with powdered sugar.

Here is a list of some of the major festivals in Sicily organized by season.

Carnival of Acireale, One of Sicily’s Most Beautiful. It is considered one of Sicily’s most beautiful carnivals, begun in the 16th Century and since, having run every February from then on as a spontaneous party among the people. Peculiar to this fest was the launching of rotten eggs and citrus fruits in streets at least until an edict finally banned this “game. It was only in the 1930s that papier-mache masks entered into the picture, along with floats led by steers and accompanied by various characters and satirical groups in constant movement. 

Carnival of Palazzolo, the oldest of Sicily. In Palazzolo, magnificent Baroque city in the Province of Ragusa, there will be a historic event, with parades of floats, costumed groups and numerous festivals of local products, until the end of the sixties, great masked balls were organized, where people danced and played “sottonovanta“, a sort of lucky dip. Nowadays you can still dance in the main square, and watch the allegorical floats parade while eating the typical cavati and grilled sausages.

Carnival of Sciacca has very old origins and it seems to be linked to the ancient, Roman Saturnalia. The floats figures are majestic and the masked groups’ movements are very graceful and attractive. Artisans of papier-mache, architects, illustrators, blacksmiths, choreographers and dancers work for months and months with great alacrity and mastery. Unpublished poems in Sicilian dialect are recited by spontaneous poets whose satire is inspired by the local and national political personalities. The Grotesque floats and masked groups parade along the streets of the historical center starting from fat Thursday, when the key of the city is symbolically given to the king of Carnival, Peppi ‘Nappa, untill fat Tuesday, when the King’s Float is burnt at the stake

A good opportunity to spend a week of fun and taste the food specialties of the territory. If you’d like more information on any of these, please don’t hesitate to contact Yes in Sicily at


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