Cruising Carnival Part III: Milan

What happens in Milan stays in Milan. For four more days. 

Either it’s Carnival in Milan or someone needs to call the Power Rangers.

The Mardi Gras tourists have now departed from New Orleans; the citizens of Rio De Janeiro are washing the ash off their foreheads or sleeping off an epic hangover– or both; Carnival has come to an end!

Or has it?

Most people probably don’t realize that in Milan, Carnival lasts four more days. Due to a custom known as the Ambrosian Rite practiced chiefly by the Milanese, Lent is postponed until Fat Saturday (“sabato grasso”) and Ash Wednesday won’t happen for another week.

We already observed in Rio and New Orleans that driving decreases substantially during parades as many people aren’t working, or are likely walking around the festivities. Let’s see how Milan stacks up with their extra days.

Much Ado about Carnival




At about half the population of Rome, you would expect that 1.6 million Milanos would be  psyched about one of the only Carnivals that extends beyond the traditional Fat Tuesday.

Based on data from last year’s Carnevale Ambrosiano, it seems like all you have to worry about is the first Ash Wednesday, but not by much. On Wednesday, March 5, 2014, the number of drives increased by 20% along with total daily driven distance. And even though Wednesday had the largest discrepancy between average drive length and average drive time, average speeds were still 20% faster than normal at 35 km/h.

Usage, alerts, and speeds were pretty stable throughout the rest of the weekend. Driven kilometers also peaked on Sunday, likely because people were either driving to mass or returning home. In contrast, last year’s Ambrosian Ash Wednesday (March 12, 2014), where usage decreased by about 10% and alerts fell by 40%, compared to the average.

Much of Carnival in Milan centers around Piazza del Duomo, including Giant Spider-Man.

What’s going on? 

Why does it seem like Milan handles Carnival better than New Orleans and Rio? Like we’ve already observed, people tend to prefer walking and visiting the parades rather than driving through them.

It may also have to do with location- Carnevale Ambrosiano happens in the center of the city at the Piazza del Duomo, and all of the big parades and parties happen on Saturday rather than being spread throughout the week.

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In an earlier post we looked at the organization of cities and how it affects major traffic events– Milan’s major highways expand in concentric circles away from the city center, where the Piazza is located. Drivers can probably easily avoid any congestion in the city by navigating toward the city’s outskirts.

What do we recommend if you’re in Milan this weekend? Park the car, walk downtown, and catch some of the wild-looking costumes and floats. And don’t miss out on the chiacchiere

Feature Photo Source