For Free Family Fun, Carnevale Returns to Rome

Piazza del Popolo at carnival 2010, Rome Carnevale

Ever since a series of accidents forced Rome to relinquish its once-raucous celebrations, Rome's colder and canal-filled sister has had the claim on Carnevale. But in recent years, Rome's been trying to change that.

Back in the day, Rome did Carnival up right. So right that everyone from Dickens to James to Dumas wrote about the festivities. So right that it went (sometimes dangerously) wrong — and, by the early 20th century, the city had put the kibosh on it altogether.

But that's changing. Two years ago, the city threw huge festivities to try to restart the tradition. And, budget problems aside, it's going for it again this year. Like last year, the main events all have pretty horsey themes. (Above: The crowd at Piazza del Popolo during last year's horse show; below: people watching a street performer at the Spanish Steps, also during Carnevale 2010). Crowd watching a street performer at the Spanish Steps, Carnevale 2010, Rome

The festivities (all free!) kick off on February 26, running through March 8. The highlights:

Opening parade. The parade will kick off from Piazza del Popolo at 5:30pm. Look out for dancers, opulently-costumed performers, horses, and military fanfare.

Day of Cowboy Pride. Yes, Americans, you read that right. On Saturday, March 5, from 10am-1pm and 3:30pm-5:30pm, there will be a cowboy-inspired equestrian show.

Italian cavalry show. It's like an equestrian show… only with the pomp and ceremony that can only come from military splendor! Check it out on Friday, March 4 at 7:30pm. Piazza del Popolo.

The BIG horse show. This is the one not to miss (well, if you like horses, or costumes, or acrobatics): On Saturday, March 5 at 7:30pm, some of the biggest names in equestrian sport perform at Piazza del Popolo. Look out for everything from acrobatic vaulting to Renaissance costumes to a dressage champion.

Spanish Steps during Carnevale 2010, Rome Daily street theatre, parades and other performances. Every afternoon until March 3, from 3pm-7pm, the whole Piazza del Popolo neighborhood will explode with fun, family-friendly activities. Look for a myriad of entertainments, including comedies, equestrian shows, and costume parades, at Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps (above: during last year's Carnevale celebrations), Piazza Navona, and along Via del Corso.

Latin American Carnival. Yeah, it's not all about you, Rome. On Sunday, March 6, from 2pm-5:30pm, Latin American dance and music groups take over from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum.

Via Tiburtina's Great Roman Carnival. Yes, it's a bit farther out — but it's also 1.5km of floats, costumes, dancers and musicians in a massive parade! It's on Sunday, March 6 from 3pm.

Carnival Village. Lots of activities will take place at Piazza del Popolo until the carnival's end. There will be refreshment stands offering food and wine from both Lazio and Tuscany (the home of Rome's "twin" city, Viareggio). And a replica 16th-century theatre will be set up with the help of Rome's Teatro dell'Opera, who will also provide the elaborate costumes.

Exhibit on the rebirth of the Rome carnival. If you're curious about where the carnival tradition came from in Rome — or, more accurately, where it disappeared to — check out the exhibit "Roman Carnival: The Birth of a Tradition," which displays photos and images of Rome's carnivals from the 19th back to the 15th centuries.

Fireworks! Hey, you can't end any celebration without 'em. Check the display out, which takes place above the Pincian hill, on the night of March 8.

 

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Chinese New Year, Coming to a Rome Near You

We won't sugarcoat it: Rome long has had an uneasy relationship with its immigrant population, including its Chinese residents. Over the past few months, though, from the Palazzo Venezia exhibit comparing the ancient Roman and Chinese empires to the launch of "The Year of Chinese Culture" in Italy, that seems like it's starting to turn around.

How Rome's celebrating the Chinese New Year this weekend makes that attempt at more mutual respect even clearer.

Rome's Chinese population always has celebrated the New Year, of course. But the parades and parties have been at the Esquiline hill — the neighborhood around Termini and Piazza Vittorio often nicknamed "Chinatown" for its plethora of Chinese families and businesses.

This year? Those festivities will take place in Rome's center. It's a recognition not just of the Year of Chinese Culture, but, perhaps, of the sheer size and influence of Italy's Chinese population: The Chinese make up the nation's 4th-largest foreign community, after the Romanians, Albanians and Moroccans.

The top two events are:

Tomorrow, Feb. 5, the Auditorium Parco della Musica will host a performance with lions, dragons, and a drum dance. That's from 6pm-8pm.

And on Sunday, Feb. 6, a Chinese New Year parade will take place at Piazza del Popolo, ending with a firework display. That goes from 6pm-8pm, too.

There are also events nationwide, including in Naples, Turin, Venice, Milan, and Prato.

 

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Art and Music in Concert at Rome’s Museums This Fall

Museums in Music ad from Beniculturali, ItalyArt is great, and music is great. But art plus music? Well, that's even better.

If you agree, then you're in luck this fall: A number of museums in Rome are hosting concerts and other nighttime events.

The most-touted is Rome's "Musei in Musica," offering free concerts at museums all over Rome on Saturday, November 20. (More details are forthcoming, so check back in a few days). (Click here for more information about the 47 different concerts occurring). But there's lots else going on, too — some mainstream, some quirky, all incorporating music and visual art.

This Sunday, the Museo di Roma hosts its last Aperitivo ad Arte. Go at 7pm for the aperitivo, take in a jazz concert (Alice Ricciardi and Enrico Bracco) at 8pm, and at 9pm, take the guided tour (in Italian) of the museum's exhibit "Il Risorgimento a Colori," featuring 19th-century paintings of patriotism in the time of Italy's reunification. The cost is €11, and the museum, at Palazzo Braschi, is located right on Piazza Navona.

Want more jazz? On November 27, check out Jazz Noir at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere. On November 27, jazz guitarists Fabio Zeppetella and Umberto Fiorentino will perform as actors read out noir literature. Admission to the concert is free with your €5 ticket to the museum. Reservations are recommended (call 060608).

If you want something a little less heavy, then try the Budapest Bar-Urban Gipsy concert at the Museo dell'Ara Pacis. On November 17, the band — which blends contemporary and traditional Hungarian music — will play, the elaborate, ancient monument in honor of Emperor Augustus in the background. The concert is at 9:30pm. Reservations are required (call 060608), and the concert is free.

The Museo dell'Ara Pacis is also hosting a multimedia show called "Dedicated to Sara…" on Nov. 26, 27 and 28. The show incorporates music, dance and images, along with poetic verses by Joseph Manfridi. The performance costs €12; you can book in advance by calling 06 70493826. The performance begins at 9pm.

For something even more imaginative, don't miss the Villa Torlonia's "A Bell from the Owls," a surrealist performance inspired by the Villa Torlonia's House of the Owls. The performance, which takes place Nov. 27 at 11am and 3pm and Nov. 28 at 11am, is included with your €3 entrance.

And, every weekend through December 17-18 (and again on Jan. 7-8), the Centrale Montemartini, Rome's former power station turned museum of ancient art (London's Tate Modern with a twist!), hosts its "Central Notes" concerts. They range from orchestral film scores (like Stelvio Cipriani's concerts on Nov. 12 and 13, or Nicola Piovani Cyrano's Film Quintet on Nov. 19-20), to blues (Paul Millns and Butch Coulter, Dec. 3-4), to rock (American Elisabeth Cutler plays on Dec. 10-11). The food and wine tasting, plus concert, costs €8. The showings are on Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 10pm. For a full list of concerts, click here.

 

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Rome’s Best Summer Events: Go Before They End

 Baths
August is upon us — and with it, the winding-down of some of Rome's best summer festivals and events, or "Estate Romana". A recap of Rome's best summer offerings… and when they end:

Ending August 3. The saldi (summer sales). If you miss these, you'll have to wait until January!

Ending August 8. Opera at the Baths of Caracalla (shown above). This year: Aida and Rigoletto.

Ending August 9. The "Roma Incontra Il Mondo" festival with nightly concerts at the Villa Ada, a lovely, enormous park in Rome.

Ending August 15. Rock City, a festival in the Park of the Aqueducts featuring nightly concerts and restaurant stalls. (On the smallish side, but fun).

Ending August 19. Lungo il Tevere Roma, an enormous nightly festival at the Tiber River.

Ending August 31. L'Isola del Cinema, showing films nightly at the island on the Tiber River (both foreign and Italian).

Ending September 4. Nightly jazz concerts at the Villa Celimontana

Ending September 4. All'Ombra dell'Colosseo, a pool (with events like aperitivo and concerts) in the Colosseum's shadow.

Ending September 5. La Forma del Rinascimento ("The Shape of the Renaissance"), with works by Donatello, Bregno, and Michelangelo, at the Palazzo Venezia.

Ending September 5. L’Età della Conquista ("The Age of Conquest"), an exhibit on the founding and Greek influences of the Roman Empire, at the Musei Capitolini.

Ending September 8. Colori dell'Ara Pacis, a light show showing the Ara Pacis as it would have been. Wednesday nights only.

Ending October 3. The Colosseum's Gladiators exhibit.

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Summer Jazz Concerts at Rome’s Villa Celimontana (Updated for 2013)

Jazz band at the Villa Celimontana summer series, Rome
If Rome's other summer events—including its festival on the banks of the Tiber River and its outdoor pool near the Colosseum—aren't enough for you, make sure you check out the nightly jazz concerts at Villa Celimontana.

[Update, 2013: In a total travesty, the historic festival was canceled last year and not renewed this year. The reason: lack of funds.]

Villa Celimontana is one of Rome's loveliest public parks. Once the 16th-century estate and villa of the Mattei family, it's also strewn with the remnants of ancient temples and palaces, including columns, statues and a temple altar. There's even an Egyptian obelisk inscribed to Ramses II that came from the
hill's Temple of Isis (and, originally, from Heliopolis' Temple to the
Sun).

Issues of archaeological sensitivity aside, there's no better place for summer concerts. The venue is small enough to get a good glimpse of the band and has excellent sound and lighting, not to mention a handful of restaurants and bars. (They're a little pricey, but not insane). As the sun sets over the cyprus trees, the breeze kicks up, and the music begins, there might be no better way to enjoy a Roman summer night.

Doors open for the concerts at 9 each night, and the music begins at 10:10. To get your ticket for one of the more popular concerts, or to grab a seat at the table at one of the venue's restaurants (which lets you order snacks, drinks and even a meal), be there on the earlier side. The concerts will run every night until September 4. Tickets usually cost €9 to €12, but more popular bands can cost up to €25 — check in advance. The schedule for upcoming concerts includes the Brazilian band Toquinho (July 31), pianist Aaron Goldberg (August 3), Italian blues band Blues di un Re Minore (August 20), and American singer Diane Schuur (August 30).

For more information about the concerts, click here (official website is in Italian). For a map, click here. Entrance to the concert is on Via della Navicella, number 12.

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