By no means exclusive to Italy, St Valentine’s Day on 14th February – known in Italian as the Festa degli Innamorati (‘lovers’ day’) has become as commercial as it is in most places in the western world. But although the origins of this modern ‘celebration’ are unknown, it certainly takes its name from an Italian Saint – San Valentino - , or possibly two saints of the same name who lived at different periods in history.
The Carnival period in Livorno is supposedly shorter than in other parts of Italy because of a vow made to the Madonna in 1742 after a tidal wave hit the town. The Livornese promised to reduce the period of carnival festivities as thanks for being saved from the flood.
Carnival officially begins on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent, the period lasting for 40 days, excluding Sundays, ending at the Easter period. Lent was traditionally a time of fasting, so carnival served as a time of festivity and indulgence preceding this. Before Christianity, the wearing of masks and merrymaking was thought to ward off evil spirits.