When carnival comes late: The anti-clerical celebrations of Poggio Mirteto

This year, the threat of rain and overall laziness delayed our departure for Carnevalone Liberato. We arrived as dusk was already settling over Poggio Mirteto as costumed revelers stumbled and sang their way through the piazza.

Valiant paramedics were carting off people who’d over-estimated their ability to ingest too much cheap red wine. Discarded plastic water bottles still stained by fermented grapes littered the ground. As we made our way through the crowd we stopped to purchase freshly fried pizza and donuts, which we munched while we watched female popes, a full-grown man dressed like pikachu and a man with a chicken mask who stalked the crowd silently, flapping his elbows like wings. Mario and Luigi were making out on the sidewalk, and two men in giant paper top-hats gestured with their canes from the church steps.

History of Carnevalone Liberato

Every year, the Sunday after carnival, Poggio Mirteto, a small town just over 60 kilometers from Rome, celebrates what is known as Carnevalone Liberato, roughly translated as the Free Carnival. The precedent for Free Carnival was set during a time in which the Vatican was immensely powerful in Italy and the rest of the world. Priests generally took the role of town leaders under the power of the Papa Re’ (Pope King).

Then, on February 24, 1861, Poggio Mirteto revolted, declaring their independence from the Vatican. The story goes that in 1929, though the town agreed to become integrated with the Italian state, it was with the condition that they continue celebrating an anti-clerical version of carnival to show their independence from the Vatican. Today, Carnevalone Liberato isn’t celebrated by the entire town, but a large group of people, many of whom come a great distance to take part.

Read more about the history of Carnevalone Liberato in Italian, English, or Spanish.

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