Carnevale with Restrictions

We first arrived in Naples three months ago right before all the holidays, both American and Italian, were gearing up to take place for the winter. My hope for the holidays while here was to enjoy each of them in a different region every year in order to fully experience various traditions and foods within the country, and perhaps later in Europe as well. Then the coronavirus hit. Christmas and New Years were spent in lockdown and now Carnevale is upon us. Another festivity where events and traditions have been cancelled because of Covid-19. Knowing our time here is already limited, I refused to lose another holiday regardless of living with restrictions. I don’t know much about Carnevale (specifically how it’s spent in Italia) so I decided to sign up for a short online class to learn about the basic traditions and characteristics of what makes this festivity so extravagant.

Everyone knows that Venice has one of the most extravagant Carnevale celebrations. But it’s not the only Italian city that boasts unique traditional traditions. Here in Naples, some of the their Carnevale traditions include jokes, lasagna, and costumes. “As the old local proverb goes,  “a Carnevale ogni scherzo vale—at Carnival, every joke has worth.” That includes pranks of all varieties and the more childish, the better.  The most popular pranks include confetti bombing your friends and parents, fibbing and white lying to unsuspecting adults and the occasional egg toss.” [] Not only will you notice the remains of confetti wedged between the cracks of the streets, but people young and old dressed in costumes. “During the height of Carlo Borbone’s reign, Neapolitans at Carnevale dressed in elaborate costumes and attended balls at the Royal Palaces and many noble homes throughout the historic center of Naples. Meanwhile, the general masses enjoyed popular theater and marionette puppetry, the most popular character being Pulcinella. The ultimate huckster, jokester trickster, Pulcinella was the ideal folkloric embodiment of the carnivale spirit in Naples. Today children in Naples more commonly dress up as fireman, sports stars and dinosaurs.” []

Then it hit me. FOOD! Food is the staple of all events, gatherings, and life in Italy! I may not be able to see Carnevale this year, but I can experience it through their cuisine. Carnevale appears to be an indulgent season and at the top of my list of foods to try during this time was the traditional Neapolitan lasagna! Many people outside of Italy are more familiar with the Bolognese-style of lasagna or the version that contains ricotta cheese. “The Neapolitan Carnevale lasagna is an entirely different baroque beast. Gilding the lily would be the best way to describe this meaty-meatball lasagna. After slow cooking chunks of meat, sausage, pork ribs and cured pork in San Marzano tomatoes to make a traditional Neapolitan style ragù, locals puree the ragù and layer with pasta also adding eggs, smoked provolone, fiori di latte cheese and most famously- mini polpette, meatballs.” []

Mariella Fratellini is the chef at La Taverna dei Sapori in Monte di Procida and this year she brought to life a wonderful, traditional Carnevale menu for many to enjoy in spite of the festivities being cancelled. We had the pleasure of ordering food from Mariella for New Years Eve and, once again, she did not disappoint! Our to-go bags were full of the scents of bruschetta, traditional Neapolitan Carnevale lasagna, a mixed Neapolitan meat ragout, spicy grilled potatoes, and chiacchiere (I’m still drooling over how delicious that lasagna was!) And of course, she paired a red wine made from grapes of 4 different regions in Italy to accompany the meal. The pictures do not do justice!


Crossing our fingers that next year we will be able to see Italians playing jokes on one another, displays of elaborate costumes and masks, and eating more traditional Neapolitan lasagna!!


Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

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