Lest you think that April Fools Day is a strictly American thing, let me set the record straight. (And no, I’m not making this whole “fish” thing up in the spirit of April Fools Day. I swear.) Il Pesce d’Aprile, or April’s Fish, is very much like it’s American cousin – a day of practical jokes and pranks. The traditional version, however, is much more cute:
The traditional pesce d’Aprile (April Fool’s trick) in Italy consists of a youngster surreptitiously attaching – with the help of tape or glue – a paper cutout of a pesciolino (small fish) to the rear shoulders of a school companion. Then everyone jokingly questions: L’hai visto?—Chi?—Il pesce d’Aprile! (or Have you seen?—Who?—the April Fool!) and makes derisive remarks about the victim.
Of course, paper fish are child’s play. What do the adults do on April 1?
The more sophisticated adult pranks are classics such as false communiques from the Ministry of the Interior about Martians attacking: “Sono sbarcati i marziani, chiudetevi tutti in casa,” [The martians are disembarking, everyone lock yourselves in your houses] or rumors that money is being give out: “Si distribuiscono soldi a tutti, andate in via Tal dei Tali al numero…” [They're giving out money to everyone, go to via Tal dei Tali at number...] Every year there are new pranks which oftentimes tricks gullible individuals. Usually the media reports on them the day after and ranks the Miglior Pesce d’Aprile [Best April Trick]. Not to miss out on a culinary opportunity, there’s even a recipe for ravioli al pesce d’aprile to celebrate the occasion.
You can read about an Italian’s memories of Aprils’ Fish here, a Wikipedia entry about it (in Italian) here, an article with vocabulary words here, and another article about it here – including a video!