John Bensalhia looks at a mixture of festivals, shows and exhibitions taking place in Italy throughout February 2014.
February is the first sign that things are about to change. It's the month which suggests that warmer weather and longer evenings are on the horizon. With that in mind, there's much to celebrate, and this month sees a number of carnivals and festivals taking place. In addition, there are some great art exhibitions on display as well as a highly regarded fashion showcase.
ALMOND BLOSSOM FESTIVAL – Agrigento, January 31 to February 9
One of the best times of year is the early stages of Spring. With Winter receding into a cold, dark distance, Spring brings the promise of more colour and warmer weather. To celebrate the dawning of Spring, one of the most talked about festivals in Italy occurs every year, and this year, the Almond Blossom Festival turns 80.
The Almond Blossom Festival heralds the first almond blossoms in a 10-day festival normally held in the first 10 days of February (although this year's festival begins on the 31st of January). It's a festival that attracts visitors from all over the globe who travel to Agrigento to savour the unique experience. It's an experience steeped in mysticism and folk traditions, complete with music and dancing.
Back in 1934, this festival took place in the town of Naro with the aim of advertising local products. Three years later, the festival began to be known as the Almond Blossom Festival and introduced the folk influence, complete with the introduction of local and overseas folk musicians. After the Second World War meant that the event was shelved between 1941 and 1947, it returned bigger and better than ever in 1948.
Celebrating peace and harmony between all cultures, the Almond Blossom Festival brings together people through music, dancing, and highlights such as the lighting of the torch of friendship outside the Temple of Concord and a choral dance in the Valley Of The Temples.
GIACOMETTI: LA SCULTURA – Borghese Gallery, Rome, February 5 to May 25
From February 5th, The Borghese Gallery will be showcasing 40 works by Swiss sculptor and artist, Alberto Giacometti.
La Scultura (The Sculpture) brings together a presentation of Giacometti works of art, including sculptures and drawings, and provides a detailed look at how the concept of the statue has been seen at various points in history.
The works of art on display include Femme qui marche II, Buste de Diego and Femme de Venise V.
THE IMAGE OF THE CITY OF THE EUROPEAN FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE ENLIGHTENMENT and LEGER 1910-1930: THE VISION OF THE CONTEMPORARY CITY – Museo Correr, Venice, from February 8
The Correr Museum (Museo Correr) in Venice will début two notable exhibitions this month. The Image Of The City Of The European From The Renaissance To The Enlightenment brings together over 80 works of art which look at the history of European urban cities.
A wide selection of paintings, drawings and prints will showcase the development, splendour and wonder of the major European cities – the works come from a mixture of private and public collections from both Italy and from all over the world.
In addition, The Vision Of The Contemporary City showcases works from Fernand Leger. His distinctive style of art will be displayed, focusing on the portrayal and representation of the contemporary city.
Both of these exhibitions will take place from February 8th and will respectively last until May 18th and June 2nd.
CARNIVAL OF VIAREGGIO – Viareggio (Tuscany), February 15-16-23, March 2-4-9
Recent findings drawn from market research have found that the reputation of the splendid Carnival of Viareggio is at an all-time high. It is now regarded as one of the main national events in the calendar, with 37.9 million people aware of its existence.
This year's carnival again looks set to bring in huge amounts of visitors, from youngsters to large families. The carnival begins in the middle of the month with an opening ceremony that hoists the carnival banner to the sounds of a trumpet. With the Carnival of Viareggio officially opened, an impressive fireworks display will take place to celebrate the event.
Parades will take place on the days of February 16th and 23rd, including wagons of giant papier mache masks. Once the triple cannon is shot from the sea, the masks will come to life, complete with festive music and dancing, embracing a cultural tradition that has taken place for more than 140 years.
The carnival also includes tastings, visits to the Carnival Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Exhibitions will be held, including showcases of photography by Roberto Paglianti and retrospective Italian carnival postcards. Meetings will be held in the halls of Liberty Gran Caffé Margherita to discuss the world of masks. And there will also be a series of shows and performances, including a celebration of the centenary of singer Aegisthus Malfatti.
Bringing colour to the closing of the Winter season with confetti, streamers, masks and parades, this year's Carnival of Viareggio looks set to cement its renowned reputation even further.
CARNIVAL OF VENICE – February 15 to March 4
One of the greatest experiences of childhood is the discovery of a big wide world of fantasy. Books, drawings, TV programmes, films... culture has been and always will be steeped in fantasy stories and fairy tales.
With that in mind, this year's eagerly awaited Carnival of Venice will promote the importance of the fairy tale with a strong fantasy theme. Revellers are encouraged to rediscover the value of these stories and see how they can relate to the bigger picture of society, and how they have shaped attitudes, thinking and the environment around us.
A big part of this will be an ambitious, large-scale fantasy dictionary that will be represented in Venice to remind visitors of the importance of this genre. It's a timeless concept and one that's passed down from one generation to the next.
This year's carnival boasts a strong and diverse line-up. The opening show on February 15th will welcome people on the banks of Cannaregio with lots of fun, music and what are said to be fantastic creatures. The next day will see a water parade of boats along the Canal Grande to Cannaregio with plenty of atmosphere and feasting. On the 22nd February, the Walking Theatre will restore the days of the Codega, a lantern-carrying servant who would regale visitors with anecdotes and stories. Visitors will be able to visit unusual, secret places in the area and discover facts about the life of the Serenissima Republic. And visitors will also be able to witness a series of Best Masked Costume Contests.
Bringing an extra touch of magic to Venice, this year's carnival is one that will bound to be highly memorable and enjoyable.
MILANO MODA DONNA (MILAN FASHION SHOW) – Milan, February 19-25
It's a big week for the fashionistas, as the latest in designer clothes and accessories will be showcased at the Milan Fashion Show in the second half of the month.
Organised by Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, the Milan Fashion Show is the first of two annual collections, with the other held in the Autumn season. Leading designers will introduce their latest results at the show, including the most in vogue clothes and accessories that will be set to inspire and interest the audiences.
MONSTERS EXHIBITION – Palazzo Massimo, Rome, Under way, until June 1
Does the human being have a dark side? As Isaac Newton once said, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Two sides to a coin. Janus and the two faces. Throughout history, there has been the notion of the two sides, and conceptually, the Monsters Exhibition at Palazzo Massimo considers the idea that for every hero, there is a monster.
The Monsters Exhibition began at the end of last year, and comprises a superb collection of beautiful works of art that depict legendary creatures. The Minotaur. Medusa. Harpies. Centaurs. Gorgons. Sphinxes... These and many more are portrayed in artwork, sculptures, mosaics, frescoes and pottery.
Following on from a previous show that examined the concepts of gods and heroes and how they are represented in works of art, the Monsters Exhibition continues until early June 2014. It also looks at how myths and classical traditions influenced subsequent works of art in the modern world and also how cinema drew upon these concepts to produce iconic, memorable films.