Carnevale, san giovanni in persiceto

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150th Historic Carnival of San Giovanni in Persiceto

Updated on 26 January 2024 From eXtraBO Outdoor Infopoint

It was 1874 when, for the first time, a parade of allegorical floats took over the streets of the village of San Giovanni in Persiceto, thanks to the Bertoldo society. Today, 150 years later, the historic Persiceto Carnival still brings together young and old who flock to admire this great open-air event.

Experience the 150th anniversary of the San Giovanni in Persiceto Carnival on 4, 11 and 18 February 2024 in Piazza del Popolo

San Giovanni in Persiceto is not famous for Dr Balanzone,  Harlequin or Columbine. The official mask is King Bertoldo, created specifically by the Carnival organisers based on the eponymous Bertoldo of popular culture. A peasant 'with big shoes and a fine brain', he grew up to be a symbol of playfulness, good humour and good food. Elevated in rank by the people of Persiceto, King Bertoldo inaugurates each year's masked parades with the reading of the Discorso della Corona (Crown Speech), and a zirudèla (a dialectal composition in octosyllabic verse in rhymed couplets) used to comment irreverently on all the events of the previous year.

However, the real extravaganza of the Persiceto Carnival will always remain the 'Spillo' (from the dialect word Spéll, meaning transfiguration, surprise or twist), a performance ritual in which the floats are transformed through scenic mechanisms. Each float is expected to tell a story and surprise the spectators.

The floats come out on the first Sunday of carnival, following the streets of the town up to the main square, Piazza del Popolo, where they unveil their allegories. It is here that all the magic of the Spillo is experienced, the jubilation of fantasy. The evaluation is entrusted to a secret jury, which draws up a ranking according to three elements:

  • Design and Construction
  • Painting and Sculpture 
  • Subject and Development

Neither money nor gold is won, the coveted first prize is honour.


During the prize-giving ceremony, on the second Sunday of carnival, a flag is awarded to each participating club: the banners up for grabs start from black, for the last in the ranking, to white for the winning club.

In addition to the white banner, the winners are awarded the Gonfalone di Re Bertoldo (King Bertoldo's Banner), a large flag embroidered with the names of all the winning societies in Carnival history. The Gonfalone is to be kept for a whole year in the winning site and must be returned at the beginning of the following year.

What are your waiting for?

Pack your confetti and costumes and join in this magical celebration.

The dates for 2024 are 4, 11 and 18 February in Piazza del Popolo, San Giovanni in Persiceto.

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