Holiday ideas

The Carnival in South Tyrol: the best place to banish winter blues

The Carnival in South Tyrol is guaranteed fun for the whole family, and a fascinating dip into the past and the ancient bond between man and the mountains.

The origins of the South Tyrol Carnival are embedded in the area’s geography, history and peasant culture. In this isolated mountainous territory, long dark winters and the hardships of mountain life gave birth to the annual parade and mask-making tradition.

Seeking merriment and an escape from the cold and rigours of daily tasks, peasant families dressed up and filled the village streets with lively processions and cheerful music, fantastic characters and vibrant colours. Jokes and pranks, laughter and song, banished problems and darkness - if just for day -  and symbolized the coming of spring and nature’s rebirth. The ancient custom is still alive in many towns in South Tyrol.

In Nova Levante/ Welschnofen, the carnival, called “Schuffa”, is animated by giant demonic Schnappviecher, hairy-headed monsters with enormous horns and rattling teeth that make a tremendous din. Tricks of the trade passed down through generations contribute to the masks’ incredible originality, each one a work of amazing craftmanship.

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The Schnappviecher are also the stars of Mardi Gras in Termeno/Tramin, where you’ll find one of the most entertaining carnival traditions in South Tyrol: the Egetmann parade. Egetmann Hansl, a rich man, prances through town on his wedding carriage, followed by strange figures such as the “wild one”, a demon with a rabbit-skin mask, the “Schnappviech”, a dragon-like figure with no ears that represents winter, and “Burgl” and “Burgltreiber”, a man and woman chasing each other that symbolize the banishing of winter.

There are a total of 32 traditional characters, each with a specific role, in the parade. Today they are accompanied by other allegorical and humorous floats that poke fun at current affairs.

Throughout the region, the party atmosphere extends to ski resorts, where skiers don masks and costumes and parade down the slopes.  

Finally, kids will be especially spellbound by the carnival in Arco. The quiet town a stone’s throw from Lake Garda transforms itself into a delightful toyland. After crossing the drawbridge, children are welcomed to Arcoland by clowns and jugglers and can dance, bounce on inflatables and watch zany parades.

Prezzemolo the dragon and other characters from the Gardaland amusement park hand out prizes for the best masks. The varied programme even includes fun events for “grown-ups”, with masked balls, concerts and shows at the Arco Casino.

The Carnival in South Tyrol is a unique event that embraces history, merriment and ancient peasant culture. To make your vacation truly indelible, stay in a masi, a traditional farmstead that offers warm hospitality and modern comforts. From the cozy warmth of the farmhouse kitchens (stube), or behind the windows of your comfortable room, you can imagine how mountain folk staved off winter’s cold dark nights and long-horned creatures with a strength of spirit that still characterises South Tyrol’s people today.

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