Carnival in Livorno 2009The 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.