Milan celebrates late Carnival

The Ambrosian rite: out of sync with the rest of Italy

After the rest of Italy – and the Catholic world – finishes with Carnival for another year, Milan takes over and continues the party.

While in most of Italy carnival finished on 13 February, churches in the Archdiocese of Milan observe the Ambrosian rite, with carnival lasting four more days than elsewhere. Tradition tells us the difference is due to St Ambrose asking his parishioners to wait for his return from a long pilgrimage. But a more prosaic reason could be simply the difference in counting the number of days of Lent, according to whether Sundays are considered a day of fasting or not.

Whatever the reason, the city is already humming with parties, parades, a clown festival and more.  The streets are strewn with multi-coloured confetti (note that in Italian, “confetti” has a different meaning: these are called coriandoli), and strollers risk ambushes by kids armed with aerosol streamers.

The traditional central Saturday procession will not take place this year due to the extra cost of street security.  Instead, each municipio will hold its own, local procession with floats created by the oratories – and this year the theme will be insects and bugs, a tip for choosing the right costume.

Street artists, stilt-walkers, musicians and jugglers will accompany the floats through the suburban streets. And for party-goers young and old the pastry-shops will be offering the traditional Carnival treats of sugar-dusted chiacchiere.

Milan city hall has assigned a cash grant to each municipio or borough to ensure the festivities reach all the suburbs: €7,000 to each except the central area, which receives €15,000 to support the extra entertainment planned there.