It’s no secret that the Italians love a carnival! From the Battle of the Oranges in Piedmont to the vibrant spectacle of the Venice Carnivale, these joyful celebrations are one of the best ways to enjoy the country’s colourful traditions.
If you’re spending January or February in the picturesque ski village of Canazei, in the Dolomites, you should definitely make time in your ski schedule to take part in the fabulous, folky Ladin Carnival.
Celebrating Ladin Tradition
The Ladin culture is spread across the valleys and mountains of the Tyrol, in Northern Italy. This proud ethnic group maintains a strong grip on its unique language and culture, and this time of the year is one of the most important on their calendar – particularly in Val di Fassa, where Canzei is situated.
Behind the Facères
From January 17th (the feast day of Saint Antonio Abate), a series of fancy dress parties – maschereda – signals the start of the carnival. Members of the local Ladin community dress in colourful folk costumes and don hand-painted wooden masks (facères), traditionally fashioned from Swiss pine and painted by artisan master mask-craftsmen. Each masks represents a character: the Bufòn (a large-nosed joker); the Lache (flashy, confident and the head of every parade); and plenty of Maraschòns, representing the village cattle. There are also various facères ‘da bèl’ (beautiful) and ‘da burt’ (ugly), to represent the opposing elements of negativity and positivity.
A Celebration of Theatre and Carnival
As well as the maschereda held at various venues, the week-long carnival includes a number of rolling processions, with participants in full mask and traditional costumes. Once the sun goes down, dozens of (usually comedic) theatre productions performed completely in the lilting Ladin language recount legends and stories of the fascinating and little-known culture.
Other attractions of the carnival include formal masked balls, snow sports competitions and, of course, it wouldn’t be an Italian carnival without singing and dancing in the village piazzas!
On Shrove Tuesday (after close to a month of fun) the celebrations are brought to a close with the traditional bonfire, ‘brujer carnascer’ – the ‘burning of the carnival’.
The best thing about the Ladin Carnivale is its wonderful inclusive nature – and everyone is encouraged to join in the festivities. So if you’re heading to Canazei for a ski break, you might want to pack a mask!
How to Get to Canazei
If you’re travelling by air, you can get to Canazei via Venice Marco Polo airport, although you can also fly into Munich, Innsbruck, Verona or Bolzano. If you’re landing at Venice Marco Polo, you’ll need to organise onward transport to the Fassa Valley. The easiest option is to book a shared or private Venice airport transfer to Canazei. Your driver will meet your flight and then you’ll get to sit back, relax and enjoy the picturesque three-hour journey through the spectacular Dolomites to Canazei.
Planning on driving from the UK to the Dolomites? If you’ve got a couple of days to spare you can make the journey without rushing – overnighting in France or Germany to make the most of the experience. Once you emerge from the Eurotunnel in Calais, the total driving time to Canazei is around 14 hours. If you want to avoid some hefty road tolls, the advice is to travel via Innsbruck and then through the Brenner Pass to Italy.
Where to Stay:
Albergo Centrale – Set against the picturesque scenery of the Dolomites, Albergo Centrale is the perfect budget accommodation for a ski break, and is just 500 metres from the slopes to boot! The warm, traditional wooden furnishings and authentic mountain décor create a cosy home-away-from-home in a convenient central location.
Hotel Garnì Cirelle – The Hotel Garnì Cirelle enjoys an authentic Tyrolean ambience, super friendly staff, and excellent access to the ski slopes. With a lovely sun deck, an onsite wellness centre – including hot tubs, a Finnish sauna and a Turkish bath – and cosy, ambient rooms, this lovely hotel is the epitome of iconic Alpine accommodation.
Schloss Hotel Dolomiti – The Hapsburg grandeur of the Schloss Hotel Dolomiti informs the ambience of this stunning luxury hotel in the heart of Canazei. With two onsite restaurants, an extensive wellness centre, elegantly appointed rooms, and impeccable service, this character-filled hotel enjoys opulent echoes of Tyrolean days gone by. With convenient ski-bus access to the slopes there’s nothing left to want.