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The Carnival of Navona Square

Navona Square is by far one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Throughout the centuries, it has been the backdrop of many events and still today, the district surrounding this elegant square, with its narrow streets and old and characteristic little houses, completely plunges us in a magic and unique atmosphere, throwing us back in time.

Among the many events that were hold in Navona Square over the centuries, how could we not mention the famous Roman Carnival!

The origins of Carnival date back to the Roman Saturnalia, religious Roman festivities characterized by public amusement, orgiastic rites, sacrifices and dances. The Masks, instead, were borrowed from the Baccanali, the celebrations in honor of Bacchus, the god of wine. They were probably used not to be recognized during the celebrations and completely abandon oneself to the sinful and majestic Ancient Roman parties. Indeed, during these lastful celebrations, overturning of hierarchical relationships and - in general - the reversal of rules and regulations of the society: plebeians could blend with patricians and vice-versa by disguising themselves.

The Roman Carnival has however its maximum explosion in the Middle Ages, precisely after the election of Pope Paul II, who, after the transfer of the papal residence at Palazzo Venezia, concentrated in the historic center and particularly Via del Corso and Navona Square, most of the carnival festivities. Christianity tidied up the complicated and numerous Roman Celebrations and aimed at moderating the most transgressive and excessive ones. And that’s how Saturnalia became Carnival.

During the Renaissance, the Roman Carnival gain in importance and people come to Rome from nearby cities to assist to games, spectacles and parades of masked dance
The main theaters of Carnival celebrations were Navona Squares and Via del Corso and it’s quite easy to give free course to fantasy and imagine how imposing those celebrations were: tourneys, music, games, parades and many took place across the entire city and suddenly the Eternal City turn into a spectacular allegorical Circus.


Nowadays, Carnival is still part of our tradition and still celebrated in Rome. The celebrations are opened by a colorful parade along Via del Corso and during a period of 10 days musical events, theatre shows, concerts, dance performances are held all around the city, mostly in Navona Square, Piazza del Popolo and Venice Square as per the ancient tradition!

If you’re in Rome, don’t miss the amazing parades! For over a week, Via del Corso, Piazza del Popolo and Navona Square will turn into an open air theatre, with clowns, bizarre and eccentric characters and a unique cheerful atmosphere!!

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