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Carnival season has arrived in Ticino!

January, 17 2020 ( Updated January, 17 2020)

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Ticino Carnival time: 19 January – 29th February 2020

Banish the winter blues, because the Swiss Carnival season is here!

A  fun-loving couple in carnival costume

For those longing for some early signs of spring, the colourful winter carnivals of Ticino are almost here. Spreading colour and cheer across the canton, this popular, 6-week long festival has ancient, co-existing roots in Ambrosian and Roman rites. Traditionally, the carnivals of Ticino signified the time when the rich of the region would ensure the poor had enough food before fasting for Lent, to avoid starvation. Whilst the German-speaking regions of Switzerland favour flour soup as an offering, the food offering of choice in Ticino, is risotto. Today, the celebrations continue to bring confetti, masks, parades, jokes and joy to young and old alike. Ticino has an incredible number of carnivals on throughout the January and February period, so get ready to get stuck in.

One of the most significant Roman-rite carnivals in Ticino is the Nebiopoli carnival, in Chiasso. Peculiarly the custom to hand over power to the people does not require a ‘king’ but instead a ‘prime minister’, who declares the town to a be a ‘free republic of Nebiopoli’ for the week. During this time, the rule of fun prevails; with masked groups and bands performing ‘Guggenmusik’ taking to the streets. The spectacle culminates in the ‘Mardi Gras Nebiopoli’. Just for good measure, the masked parade and colourful floats are accompanied of course, by the jolly Guggen music.

Across the canton, many of the carnivals take place at the end of the week, following the Ambrosian rite. The busiest by far are the carnivals held in Biasca, Brissago and Tesserete, which begin in earnest on the Satuday and wind down on Sunday morning. Within these town centres, the celebrations kick off with colourful, confetti-laden street parties with Guggen bands and free risotto, served up on the Thursday night before.

If you’re staying in Lugano city or nearby Locarno this January or February, then you are in luck! Both cities stage epic carnivals, whilst being within easy driving distance from the most celebrated carnival in Ticino, which is hosted by the city of Bellinzona (26-39 minutes’ drive away). Read on to learn more about these 3 Ticino carnivals:

The Carnival in all Regions (Lugano & Luganese): 19 - 29th February 2020

Piazza Riforma, Lugano & Luganese towns

A pair of Sousaphone instruments stand upright

In the Swiss lake city of Lugano and the wider Luganese region, an impressive schedule of carnivals will be taking place. The carnival festival begins in Lugano on Thursday afternoon, with the keys to the city brought to ‘King Sbroja’ before a masked procession of school children parades through the city. On Monday 24th, the city will then be serving up free risotto for all, from 11:30am onwards in Piazza Riforma (in the event of bad weather, this will take place in the Exhibition centre). Preluding the city carnival, are those in Isone (24th - 26th January), Medeglia (31st January - 2nd February), Paradiso (14th - 15th February) and Lamone (15th February), so don’t miss out! For a full programme on the Luganese ‘carnival in all regions’ festival, check out this year’s schedule here.

The ‘Rabadan’ Carnival of Bellinzona: 20th - 25th February 2020

Via Riale Righetti 20, Bellinzona

A woman blows confetti into the camera

With the Festival name ‘Rabadan’ literally meaning ‘noise’, you can guarantee that party fever will be descending onto Bellinzona this February! Hosted by Ticino’s much-loved capital city, the festival attracts over 150,000 visitors, making it the largest carnival in Switzerland, after Basel. Starting 7 and a half weeks before Easter Sunday, the ticketed carnival kicks off on the Thursday night, when the keys to the city are handed over from the mayor of Bellinzona to the elected ‘King Rabadan’, who will rule with merriment until the following Tuesday. During this time, food tents and marquees line the streets, where live theatre, jesters and marching bands perform alongside costumed parades. Friday’s carnival is performed by the youngest participants, whilst the Saturday is greeted by Guggen carnival bands in full swing, performing well into the night. The party peaks on Sunday, during the televised ‘Grande Corteo Mascherato’ parade, with a procession of 50 music bands and carnival floats making their way through the iconic UNESCO world heritage city. For more information on how to take part and what to look forward to whilst at the Rabadan carnival, click here.

The ‘La Stranociada’ Carnival of Locarno: 21st - 22nd February 2020

Città Vecchia, Via Bartolomeo Rusca 2, Locarno  

A coluorful carnival mask

On average 7,000 visitors take over Locarno Old Town, for a vibrant annual 24-hour carnival. Commencing with upbeat energy on Friday night, Guggen bands perform whilst masked performers, street entertainers and party tents provide an enticing spectacle for visitors, till the early hours of the morning. Awards for the best Guggen band and the most original mask are also given out during the lively evening. The merriment continues throughout Saturday, with child-friendly entertainment and free risotto served to the crowds within Piazza Sant’Antonio. Take a sneaky peek here for the full programme and to get your tickets for this year’s La Stranociada carnival.

View the full calendar of Ticino carnivals here.

From the midst of Carnival fever, we hope 2020 ‘floats’ your boat!

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