In the month of February there can be a dip in happiness levels. The holidays and the glow they left behind has faded and we find ourselves still very much in the middle of winter with hopes of warm days still too far off in the future. Thankfully here in Italy, February marks the Carnevale period. Each year Carnevale completely slips my memory until one day, usually sometime in January – in the period leading up to Carnevale, I walk into the bakery and I see the mounds of special pastries made just for the occasion. Nothing cheers me up like a tasty fried pastry stuffed full of cream!
Carnevale is a period of celebration in which people are meant to use up all of their fat, sugar, and meat before entering into the abstinent period of Lent - hence the increased quantity of goodies at the bakery. The most famous and typical dolce for Carnevale is a thin piece of dough which is fried until super crispy and then dusted with more than its fair share of powdered sugar (you are guaranteed to be a white, powdery mess after eating one). In Bologna, this dessert is called Sfrappole but it has many different names depending on where you are in Italy.
Other popular desserts during Carnevale include fried balls of dough typically filled with cream but sometimes also with Nutella called Zeppole, le Ravioline with cream or Nutella inside, and caramelized tagliatelle – a crunchy, rip your fillings out kind of dessert.
This is also the period in which people dress up in costume and have parties and celebrations. If you spot a father and son team walking down the main street in Bologna in matching capes and masks, as I did the other day, do not be alarmed. They are probably on their way to a Carnevale party. Some of the biggest celebrations occur in Venice (which despite a crushing number of people, I would highly recommend going to at least once in your life) and Viareggio, on the Tuscan coast.
|Incredible costumes and mask at the Carnevale celebration in Venice|
The period of Carnevale is almost over, some people would say it ended yesterday with Fat Tuesday but there are still lingering celebrations through the weekend, so go out and put on a mask and gobble up some of the goodies before they are all gone.